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Apr 06, 2012 News
Chief Justice Ian Chang believes that recent comments by political figures on his decision to quash
the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) are designed to undermine his office.
The Chief Justice has been the centre of a growing controversy, following his recent ruling that the DPP’s advice to charge Commissioner of Police Henry Greene with rape was irrational.
The Chief Justice was specifically concerned with the comments made by Education Minister Priya Manickchand and Attorney-at-Law Deborah Backer of A Partnership for National Unity.
Manickchand, in calling for Greene to demit office, had expressed disquiet at the ruling of the Chief Justice in the matter involving the Commissioner.
In an interview with the Stabroek News, the former Human Services Minister, who had piloted the Sexual Offences Bill 2010 through Parliament, said that she is worried about the implications Justice Chang’s ruling will have “on other prosecutions or intended prosecutions for rape, even though she agrees that the court had jurisdiction to review a decision by the DPP.”
And Backer, an APNU Member of Parliament, had stated that her party has placed on record its dismay and disappointment at the apparent lack of sensitivity and knowledge revealed by the statements made by the Chief Justice in his ruling.
“On the issue of the Chief Justice’s lack of sensitivity, he must be aware that progressive countries, recognising that the trial of sexual offences often turns out to be the hardest on the victims, have enacted victim-friendly legislation empowering Courts, inter alia, to hold trial in camera, and also forbid the publication of reports of certain details of the alleged act,” APNU pointed out.
The party said that rather than adhere to these modern principles, the Chief Justice quite happily read to the packed court room and by extension the entire country “all the gory details of the alleged rape”.
“These statements show a remarkable lack of reading on the part of the Chief Justice on how women and children react to the barbaric offence of rape. Thursday the 29th day of March, 2012 will remain a black day for all right thinking people of Guyana. We trust that the Director of Public Prosecutions will appeal the decision of the Honourable Chief Justice…” Backer had stated.
Justice Chang believes that these comments, especially from political figureheads, will have far-reaching effects for the integrity of the office of the Chief Justice.
“That particular office and the Chancellor, the appointments are made by the President with the consent of the Leader of the Opposition.”
The Chief Justice said that he does not have a problem with anyone disagreeing with his decision, but to use certain words is worrying.
“You can’t say that it’s disquieting and I don’t read enough, and I’m insensitive.”
According to Chang, what is worrying, are the persons who are making the statements.
“They are representatives of the government and they are representatives of the opposition. These are people who are representatives of the major political parties,” Chang said, adding that he is not so much worried by statements made by others who are critical of his decision.
Justice Chang in defending his ruling has urged those who want to criticize to read his 64-page decision.
“What are the implications of these criticisms? I don’t read? I am incompetent?” Chang asked during a telephone interview with this newspaper.
“If these people are saying these things what are they doing, not undermining the office? It is the kind of language they are using,” he added.
The Chief Justice said that persons can disagree with his decision which he added can be tested in a higher court.
“They are arguing that the court should not interfere with the works of parliament…they are interfering with my work. Let the court correct me, they should not be correcting me as Parliamentarians,” Justice Chang declared.
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