Kaieteur News – I cannot comment on the acquittal of Gary Best because there is going to be a continuation of the trial in the Full Court so the matter is still sub judice. I can still express how I feel. I felt Best would have been convicted.
For those who are not familiar with how the judicial system works, you should be careful in how you interpret the verdict. When you have experience in court trials then you will see that the best is yet to come in Guyana, but we have to live with the worst.
A conviction depends on the performance of a prosecutor. In the lower court – magistrate level – the prosecution is always a police rank, and never beyond the rank of superintendent. If the defendant has a competent lawyer and the police prosecutor is poor, you will have a tragic, sad, malignant miscarriage of justice.
Three former officials in the previous PPP government – Kwame McCoy, now a minister of government; Jason Abdulla, now board member of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority and Shawn Hinds (don’t know what position he has secured in the current government) – were charged with assaulting me, no doubt because of my anti-government activism. Abdulla gave a detailed confession on how he, McCoy and Hinds planned the attack from within the Office of the President.
The only reason I chose not to ask the magistrate to discontinue the trial was because of my obligation to the publisher of this newspaper, Mr. Glenn Lall. He relentlessly pursued the issue after the new government came into being in 2015. I knew he worked tirelessly to seek justice for me. I had a moral obligation to respect his effort by giving testimony. After my first day of testimony, I knew I was in a circus and did not want to continue.
The police prosecutor was a sergeant. Throughout the trial, he never made one objection. I remember saying to him when I was on the witness stand; “Aren’t you going to object to that nonsense?” Each defendant has a different attorney and the sergeant was virtually intimidated by the three lawyers. This happens all the time in Guyana when there are high profile trials in the magistrate courts.
I stopped attending my case. I really could not have been bothered with the result. The DPP never sought to have a special prosecutor. I believe it may have been so because I had written critical things on her in my columns long before McCoy, Abdulla and Hinds were charged.
That court ordeal was a personal tragedy for me. Not in the sense that I was the victim, but in the sense of what my country is. You had to be in that court room to see how a member of the media was viciously assaulted and the trial was a cowboy show. The police prosecutor hardly spoke and never challenged any of the questions advanced by the three lawyers.
I didn’t have any anger in me because I knew consciously in my soul that when I became a human rights activist more than 50 years ago, there would be consequences. The magistrate was Judy Latchman who was the focus of several trenchant critiques of mine for her performance on the bench. In fact, because of those antecedents, I wrote her and the chancellor requesting that she recuse herself. This is Guyana so I think you know what the answer was.
In the Best trial, it was down to how prosecutor handled himself. This is by no means an excuse for the points the magistrate may have missed that were in favour of the prosecutor. I have done columns that I cannot count on the quality of the magistracy. As I write this commentary here, an elderly gentleman was shot multiple times and killed when bandits physically wrested his motorcycle from him.
Could there be any redeeming circumstances, if those killers are caught and brought before a judge? Well this is Guyana, you never know. They could behave well while on remand and could express remorse. Taking those two items into consideration, a guilty plea may bring “time served” meaning if they were on remand for three years; that is all they could serve.
Do you know the son of one of Guyana’s most prominent politicians was sentenced to 45 consecutive years for inserting his finger in the vagina of his victim? I thought the crucial area was the lack of evidence of her being underage. I don’t think she was. I asked Madan Kissoon to appeal as a favour. He can’t. The judge is yet to write her judgement after six years.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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