“We are ready to bring justice to your doorstep”- Chancellor of the Judiciary
DPI, GUYANA, Saturday, February 3, 2018
Residents of the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region (Region Nine) will now have swift access to justice with the official opening of the Rupununi Magisterial District Court Office, Lethem, and other courts in Aishalton, Annai, and Karasabai.
Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, speaking at the commissioning ceremony on Friday, reflected on the many challenges faced by the region’s residents.
She said that sittings of the Magistrates Court in Lethem were held quarterly for two weeks, “For areas like Monkey Mountain the Magistrate would come in on the flight and 30 minutes before the flight goes back, within that period, he or she would hold court and then they go back to Georgetown. Could that be justice in the circumstances?”
Emphasising that justice is “not one-sided” Justice Cummings-Edwards said not only the Magistrates were affected, “persons coming from Karasabai and even Aishalton, most of the times court was held here in Lethem and they would have to travel sometimes two days just to get to court and when the water is high it would take even longer for them to get to the court”.
The Magistrates Court was previously held in the Police Station in a small room, “which was 10 by 10…the Magistrates, the lawyers, the prosecutors, the prisoners, everyone assembled in that room for justice,” Justice Cummings-Edwards related.
The Guyana Police Force (GPF) also incurred financial expenses as a result of the court system in that region. For instance, if someone was charged with an unbailable offence, the transportation cost for that person, to stand trial before the Chief Magistrate in Georgetown, would be the responsibility of the GPF.
In cases where persons were not imprisoned and had to be returned to the district to await the next court date, in some cases three months later, room was left for them to take advantage of the system by engaging in other illegal activities.
According to the Chancellor, “we have looked at all of those factors and we have seen the benefits the district here would have for all the residents, for all concerned”.
The instrumental role of former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh was highlighted and commended, in the realisation of the court.
The Chancellor (ag) pointed out that Justice Singh, recognising that the conditions under which the law was being administered in the Rupununi were not suitable, acquired the present land on which the Supreme Court was able to construct the District Office.
With the opening of the office, residents will now have centralised services for their legal matters, such as bail refunds and payment for licenses, among others.
Another plus for the region is the appointment of His Worship, Allan Wilson as the Resident Magistrate for the Rupununi Magisterial District, which will guarantee timely dispensation of justice.
Delivering brief remarks, Justice Wilson said there are no more excuses for delays in the dispensation of fair-play within the District.
Justice Wilson also reflected on the space constraints, poor furnishing, long hours for hearing of cases within the designated two weeks at the Lethem Court, however, he said the job had to be done in spite of those challenges.
“The creation of this sub-registry and the expansion of the Rupununi Magisterial to include courts at Aishalton and Karasabai will greatly assist the people of this region. No longer will the litigants have to travel long distances to Georgetown…or depend on the Post Office for the payment of child support and it will also now be easier for domestic violence issues to be addressed in a timely fashion”, the Magistrate pointed out.
The Magistrate and other staff are now better accommodated and are, therefore, better positioned to adequately provide services which were previously inaccessible within the region.
Justice Wilson expressed gratitude to the Government of Guyana and members of the judiciary for the achievement of what is described as a “historic milestone” for the justice sector.
Meanwhile, Mayor of Lethem, Carlton Beckles said the advent of regular court hearings will contribute to timely litigation and assist the regional administration in meeting its goals as a township.
He noted, “we have joined other municipalities like Linden, Bartica and New Amsterdam just to name a few. We will also now benefit from time to time, the other services provided by this entity and for these reasons, I pledge our unconditional support”. Mayor Beckles also called on residents to see the Court as a “necessary ingredient in the menu of development.”
The Supreme Court conducted extensive consultations with Toshaos, the regional administration, residents, the GPF and agencies, particularly the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC).
The establishment of the Rupununi Magisterial District Court Office falls under the Justice Improvement Project.
By: Stacy Carmichael
For more photos, click on the link to the DPI’s Flickr Page