I am repeating what I once carried in one of my columns last year – the description of a conversation held in the supermarket named Distribution Service Limited, a subsidiary of DDL. It is located opposite Guyoil gas station on Sheriff Street. As soon as you enter the supermarket, on your immediate right, is the pharmaceutical/cosmetics glass counter. I was standing there.
This former judge came up to me. He/she said (I will not identify the gender) will like to talk to me about magistrate’s decisions. He/she said that magistrates are overdoing it with their unreasonable bail imposition. At last, I can quote a famous retired judge.
The judge intoned; “No, no, no, I don’t want to be identified.”
Last week in my column of March 5, (“Why Guyana, of all places jailing Cubans?”), I quoted from a speech Minister Ramjattan gave at a drug rehabilitation programme. All the senior magistrates were there.
I quote from my column; “Ramjattan told the gathering that in his experience as a prosecutor and defence counsel, he would caution against imposing prison sentences on drug accused because they become hardened offenders when they come out.”
Ramjattan gave off that advice on March 4. Since then there have been more than five cases of jail term assigned for less than forty grams which is the legal limit in Jamaica. Two days ago a magistrate named Esther Sam jailed a defendant on that very charge.
When I read the name Esther Sam, I was confused. My job as a social analyst is to know these things. And I apologize; I didn’t know we had a magistrate named Esther Sam.
My job also is to know the familiar faces in legal society, that is, the practising lawyers. I never heard the name Esther Sam. I hope Madam Sam does not read anything personal into this. I truly have not heard about her. I assume she did well in private practice or in the DPP chambers and then went on to become magistrate.
Accused, Bernard Britton, appeared in front of Sam in Anna Regina Court.
He told Sam he uses the ganja he was caught with for his asthma. In many other countries, marijuana for medical use is legal. I don’t know If Sam is familiar with journalism and movies. Out of one of the most popular World War 2 movies was born a saying that is now commonly used by commentators and journalists. The movie is “Casablanca” and the saying goes like this, “Play it again, Sam”
From Sam in Anna Regina, we move to one of the “famous” magistrates in Guyana, Leron Daly. Daly did take Ramjattan’s advice (just like Sam didn’t). Daly, a few days ago, jailed a man for ganja. The man’s explanation was that he thought the stuff was achar. From Daly with her daily prison sentences, we go to the birth place of Moses Nagamootoo.
At the Whim magistrate’s court, Dinesh Sookram, appeared in front of Renita Singh. The unemployed man was charged with break and enter and larceny. He was placed on $200,000. He could not raise that sum, so he escaped from lawful custody.
When I read that incident of escape, my mind went back to the supermarket conversation with one of Guyana’s most prominent retired judges on the question of unreasonable bail.
So is our famous or infamous, Minister of Public Security, Ramjattan being ignored in the magistrate’s courts or is contempt being shown to the advice he gave magistrates less than two weeks ago? Let me end when a weird story in one of the magistrate’s courts that I have never put in print.
It occurred in front of Judy Latchmansingh. I was giving testimony in the assault case against Kwame McKoy and others who had attacked me. I told Latchmansingh I was objecting to her presiding over the case since I have been very critical of her performance as a magistrate and that she should recuse herself.
She refused to do so and read from one of my columns where I published the lyrics of the famous rock song, “Hotel California.” In rejecting my request, she quoted from that column and recited the lines of Hotel California. Attorneys Glen Hanoman, Latchmie Rahmat and others were there. That was strange.
Here are some lines from Hotel California.
“Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes Benz
She’s got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget”
Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
‘Relax’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!’
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