The importance of upholding the rule of law was highlighted as the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Conference (CMJC) opened at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston, yesterday.
The conference hosted by the Commonwealth Judges and Magistrates’ Association, (CJMA), a London-based organisation, in collaboration with the Supreme Court of Guyana, is expected to last for three days.
Among the participants are members of the judiciary from the Commonwealth including Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and Canada and from the Caribbean region.
Under the theme, the Judiciary as Guarantors of the Rule of Law”, members of the Commonwealth are expected to explore the matters of the Rule of Law, the provision of resources for the courts, anti-terrorism legislation and human rights, environmental Law and Sustainable development.
The conference aims to promote better understanding, among judicial officers of all ranks and from all parts of the Commonwealth, of judicial independence issues and to explore the approach to those issues in different parts of the Commonwealth.
The forum also seeks to promote greater awareness among the magistrates and judges of the Commonwealth, of international treaties and law relating to the development and access to justice, and to consider the practical application of that body of law and enhancing networking within the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association on judicial developments.
At the opening ceremony, yesterday, Chief Justice and President of the CMJA, John Lowndes, stressed the importance of ensuring that rule of law is upheld.
He noted that for the next few days, the conference will examine methods of how the judiciary can ensure that the rule of law is upheld.
Justice Lowndes further emphasised that an independent and impartial Judiciary is necessary.
“A free society exists as long as it is guided by the rule of law,” he stated adding that the rule of law requires the subjection of all classes to the law of the land.
The CMJA President further explained that for the rule of law to be discharged adequately it is pertinent for judges to be and be seen as independent.
“The independence of the judiciary and the separation for the other two arms of government is essential to the rule of law and is regarded as of grave importance to all democratic societies. The judiciary has a very special role to maintain the rule of law and to be the guarantor of the rule of law.
Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh, told the gathering that the Guyana Judiciary has complete independence from the remaining arms of governance.
The Chancellor even spoke of an incident involving a former Chief Justice who publicly chided a Minister of Government for his inappropriate remarks.
Justice Singh said there are instances in which tensions will rise between the executive and the judicial arms of governance but Judges cannot be weak and timid but bold in applying guarantee that the rule of law is maintained.
The Chancellor emphasized that “Judges must base their decisions on the law.”
He expressed concern that many see the Court as a place of punishment instead of a place where rights are established. The Judge noted that individuals must understand that access to justice does not mean access to the courts.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo in the key note address reaffirmed that the Guyana Judiciary is free from political control and influence.
Nagamootoo said that the current administration does not interfere in the functioning of judges and magistrates. “Our judges, in their adjudicatory role, are not in any way subject to any form of improper, inappropriate or unwarranted governmental influence.
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