When I was growing up, long before we got Independence (and just to remind you we got Independence 52 years ago, which is a pretty long time ago), I would hear my parents and other older folks talk about people hiding from the court marshal so as to avoid receiving a writ from a judge. It baffled me why a hugely important figure upon whom rests social stability – a judge – would just have his/her ruling contemptuously ignored.
Of course we embraced that asininity from our colonial masters. I became a grown-up person and never could have come to grips with that immense stupidity. The marshal must put the document in the hands of the intended recipient. If there is anything idiotic about civilization it is that stupidity.
So Sita went to the court to get an injunction restraining her neighbour from parking his car in her driveway because she cannot drive out in the mornings to go to work. The court gives her the order. The marshal cannot deliver the document, because each time the marshal appears at his defendant’s gate, the guard presses the bell three times and that tells him the marshal is outside. Sita cannot serve the injunction at his office because his secretary presses the buzzer in a way that would tell him the marshal is at the office.
What I have written above has operated in this country since it became known as British Guiana. If this is not a case of the law being an ass, then you have to be an ass yourself to accept such a situation. In 1996, I saw when the law became an ass right in front of my eyes. I was born in the yard of the Bishop family at the junction of Hardina and Hadfield Streets in Wortmanville. Aubrey Bishop became the most famous member of that family when he became Chancellor of the Judiciary.
My parents and all my siblings looked up to the Bishop family. When Aubrey returned as a lawyer, he was like a king in Wortmanville. It so happened Aubrey Bishop and I became working colleagues in the Department of Political Science and Law at UG. I was a lecturer in political philosophy; he was a professor in law. In 1996, the father of a law applicant came to see me about the depression his daughter was going through. She did better than her friend at CAPE at Bishops’, but the friend was accepted to read for law while she was rejected.
All applications have to come in front of the Board of the Faculty of Social Sciences. For that year, the law applications didn’t. I felt sorry for the father and his daughter. I asked Justice Winston Moore for a writ compelling Mr. Calvin Eversley, the head of law, to bring the applications for the Board’s decision. It was granted. I took the marshal up to UG to serve it, but Professor Bishop advised Eversley not to come out of his office. Bishop advised all personnel in the law department not to receive the writ.
I had immense respect for Aubrey Bishop, because I grew up in front of him in the very yard he lived in. From that day of the writ controversy, I never spoke to him again. This man was once the Chancellor of the Judiciary, and this was the way he treated the rule of law.
We have at the moment the law behaving as an ass. A writ handed down by the second most important person in Guyana in terms of the legal authority of the state – the Chief Justice – cannot be served, because the Attorney-General is evading the marshal.
The question that every civilized person in this country must ask is why that writ cannot be left with the security of the Office of the Attorney-General. That security rank has the responsibility to take documents to the AG’s secretary. Why can’t the secretary take the writ? Why can’t the chief administrative officer for the office of the AG take the document? Why can’t the writ be left with a high official at the Ministry of Legal Affairs?
This is where the law becomes an ass. After fifty two years of Independence, the rule of law operates as if Guyana is a playground. A judge can issue an order – in this case a document of colossal importance, because it has to do with the right of citizens to seek redress against the hegemony of the State – and the intended recipient can just hide from receiving it, and that is the end of the story. Clifford Krauss is coming to Guyana soon.
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