Last Wednesday evening, I was in New Amsterdam again, invited again to be on the live call-in programme on DTV hosted by attorney Charrandas Persaud. I was reluctant this time. On each journey I have had to overnight in New Amsterdam because of security reasons. In this election campaign I will not be on the deserted roads in Region Six alone in the still, dark night.
My second appearance on DTV was a learning experience. My co-guest was Ryan, the son of one of Berbice’s most famous lawyers, Marcel Crawford. The young Crawford has joined the opposition camp and he described things about Berbice that I am sure most people outside of that county do not know about.
Ryan Crawford informed his viewers that he left Guyana as a little boy and became a practicing lawyer in New York. He conceded to a plea by his father to return to Guyana. So he went to Trinidad to qualify to practice law in the Caricom jurisdiction
Young Crawford said that when he came back to Guyana and remembered the land of Trinidad, this is how he put it; “It was like night and day.” In other words, Crawford was thinking about Naipaul’s area of darkness.
There was once a student leader at UG by the name of Jason Benjamin (migrated of course). Mr. Benjamin never saw another country until he was invited as the UG student leader to Jamaica. After his return, he exclaimed to me; “Freddie, you should see the student lounge. Man, we at UG ain’t gat nothing like that. Man you should see it; this lounge is better than every section of UG.”
Ryan Crawford proceeded to describe the modern facilities of the High Court in Trinidad, then said he could not believe his eyes that when he began practicing in Guyana to see the judges writing everything the witnesses said with pen in hand. Crawford intoned that this was indeed primitive.
There were more shocking revelations and these were shocking to me too. Crawford indicated that there are no washroom facilities at the Berbice High Court for lawyers. I now come to the part that I had absolutely no knowledge of.
According to Ryan Crawford, once an appeal is decided upon in a Berbice trial, the lawyer has to travel to Georgetown to lodge papers in the Registry of the High Court on Avenue of the Republic in Georgetown. Mr. Crawford explained that a number of filings on civil matters and land cases have to be done in Georgetown.
The young attorney told his viewers that this was totally unacceptable. He lamented the fact that Berbicians have to travel to Georgetown to access a passport.
I knew about the passport nonsense, but I honestly didn’t know that the filing of certain court papers in Berbice cases have to be done in Georgetown. This is frightening when one considers two facts. One is that we are approaching half a century of Independence. Secondly, Berbicians have voted overwhelmingly for the PPP since 1957.
A country becomes an area of darkness when in a modern, technological world, judges and magistrates in the year 2011, in a country in the English-speaking Caribbean, have to write down all the questions of the lawyers and the answers of the witnesses.
So do we have money to fund a separate passport office in Berbice and to modernize the recording system in our courts? The answer is yes. But we spend it on things like Carifesta, the Mercosur Heads meeting in 2007 and Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ meeting in 2010. The State pours millions of dollars into sponsorship of all kinds of entertainment, including cricket matches and dancers/singers from the Caribbean.
Ryan Crawford made it plain to his viewers that what he saw in Trinidad and comparing it to Guyana, he was happy to join the election campaign of the opposition parties.
After the show, I went to see the election campaign bandwagons of the PPP, APNU and AFC. All three were in full swing in both East and West Berbice. From what I saw, in terms of crowd attendance there seems to be no huge gap between the parties. It all depends on where the meeting is kept.
At one site, AFC’s showing was superb and at another location, more people could have been there and the pattern continues for all the other parties. From my evening in Berbice last Wednesday, I would be bold to say that there is going to be a hell of a close result. Now that is judging from the crowd attendance I saw.
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