Kaieteur News – In 2019, I appeared in front of the magistrate requesting bail for AFC youth activist, Keifer Burnette who didn’t have a lawyer (see my column of Tuesday, January 8, 2019, “African Guyanese 52 years after Independence”). He was picked by the police on a Friday night, denied bail and appeared in court on Monday morning.
My fear was that huge bail would have been imposed just for two grams of marijuana. I asked the magistrate for reasonable bail. Keifer died last year and when I read from the Attorney General about the legal changes coming to the granting of bail by both the police and magistrates, I immediately thought of Keifer. I wish he was alive to see those changes.
I can go through my archive of articles from more than 10 years and come up with not one or two but more than 10 columns over a 10-year period lamenting the cruel denial of bail by the police stations and magistrate courts.
In fact, I took Magistrate Judy Latchman before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for denial of bail to a woman the prosecutor informed the magistrate was wrongly charged (see my column, of Friday, May 13, 2016, “Magistrate Latchman should have recused herself).
I objected to Ms. Latchman presiding over the trial of Kwame McCoy, Jason Abdulla and Shawn Hinds for throwing a miasmic substance (it was not feces but that has gone into the record books thanks to a joke by then Kaieteur News editor, Adam Harris) on me. She didn’t recuse herself, the JSC did not compel her to recuse herself. That magistrate’s performance in that trial was far, far from credible. But this is Guyana, of course.
So legal reform is coming to the bail system. It should have come a long time ago but a nation of sheep and hypocrites delayed the process. The sheepish population was too scared to denounce magistrates and police stations in the media. The hypocritical dimension is too sickening to dwell on.
For the longest while, bail was cruelly dispensed in this country and not one editorial, not one lawyer, not one civil society organisation focused on it. When you criticise these people, they hate you. The Bar Association never uttered a word about a man denied bail for finding a spent shell on the road or any other bail denial situation (see my column of Thursday, February 15, 2018, “Jail for spent shell: We are heading for another bloody mayhem.”)
I can go through my archive of columns on the horrible mistreatment of small depositors at commercial banks and I will find more than a dozen articles stretching back more than 10 years. Not one civil society actor has ever made a public cry about it. Not one editorial has commented on it. Not one business organisation has made a public comment on it. The Bank of Guyana was never concerned.
It was the President of Guyana, Dr. Irfaan Ali, who in a conversation with me said he was aggrieved at the situation. What has been going on is that the banks have misinterpreted the essence and contents of the anti-money laundering act. They have pulverised small depositors through asinine attitudes that a modern society should not tolerate. But no one speaks up in “sheepland” and no one could be bothered.
Finally, changes and commonsense in banking, as with the bail system, have arrived. The bank manager last Wednesday in front of my wife and daughter answered my question as to why every two years, we have to meet the requirements of the law and submit all kinds of documents.
The manager said: “No, no, you don’t have to do this again only if we see movements in the account that need explanation.” How long have I been writing on this oppression – a long time ago? I argued that money laundering is an action. Like stealing, like riding a bicycle, like fixing a pipe, it is an action.
If you have $10 million in a bank that saw no deposits over a 20-year period then the banks are ignorant and stupid to check on you every two years. There is no laundering going on in your account. Your account is your savings. Money laundering is the movement of money through the banks. That is so simple to understand.
With the pittance I have in the bank, my wife, daughter and I had to submit papers every two years. We spent four hours in 2018 in the bank. Changes would have come a long time ago, if this country wasn’t a wasteland of uncaring humans. So after more than 10 years I am vindicated. But I find no joy in that. Guyana is such a harsh psychological terrain.
(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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