The Justice System, and the Importance of Having Our Justice System4150 27 Jun, 2012
Mr. B. Williams: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I would not be detaining the Hon. House for as long as the subject Minister. I rise to speak on this Bill in the context as the Hon. Minister addressed it, the context of the justice system, and the importance of having our justice system, a justice system which we all desire to be efficacious.
The purport and intendment of the provisions of this Bill, in no doubt, is to effect the smooth administration of justice. For us to achieve a smooth administration of justice a holistic approach is needed. In other words, all parts of our justice system must work affectively, the judiciary, the Judicial Service Commission, the magistracy, the Police Force and of course the Police Service Commission. However, is the Hon. Attorney General telling this nation that in the face of much needed constitutional and statutory changes, such as the reform of the national electoral system, the system which has the geographic constituencies still hovering in the air and cannot find ground as yet, the Constitution and Judicial and other Service Commissions, the passage of the Local Government Reform Bills, Bills to amend the Schedule to the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act to restore the independence of Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Parliament Office which are important items that are required to be dealt with very quickly so that we can be up and running as a nation – these are just a few – and the Bill before us today, which we have to consider, is one of the highest priority on the Government’s legislative agenda.
Is this Bill the extent and the quality of the Government’s legislative agenda? The relentless, litigious onslaught by the Government against the work of the National Assembly has stymied the work of the Parliamentary Committees. One such Committee is the Appointments Committee. The inability of this Committee to do any serious work is of course due to its late establishment which resulted in the Judicial Service Commission, for example, not being fully constituted. Article 198 of our Constitution provides for the composition of the Judicial Service Commission, which includes the Chancellor who is the Chairman, the Chief Justice, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, a sitting or a retired Judge from a Commonwealth country and not more than two members identified by the National Assembly after it would have consulted the Bar Associations and legal organisations in Guyana. The National Assembly would signify the persons identified to the President for appointment. In the case of the Commonwealth member that was identified in the Constitution, is only after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. What we have is because of this action that was brought against the Committees.
I know we have stained our hands to allow this matter to be resolved in the Court, but by doing so, the Appointment Committee has been unable appoint the members that would be requisite to cause the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to be fully established. In the result, what we have right now is a three-man commission because our committee was unable to get into the fray and appoint at least the two other members. What we would also have is this three-member committee being able to exercise jurisdiction under Article 197 to make appointments of judicial offices.
It is the view of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) that notwithstanding the Judicial Service Commission, may act despite any vacancy in its rank, under Article 226(3). We are saying that a partially constituted JSC should not make any judicial appointments under Article 199 until the civil society and other components are appointed to make it fully established. The framers of the Constitution, in order to guarantee this independence of the Judicial Service Commission, they in framing the Constitution made this provision to have at least three other members.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, could I ask that the Member states what Bill he is talking under. The Bill which we are on is the Summary Jurisdiction Bill. Whilst I find the Member enlightening in his own theories it has no relevance to this Bill. Mr. Speaker, I seek your guidance.
Mr. Speaker: It is a pertinent observation, Ms. Teixeira. Mr. Williams was prefacing his statements about there being an ever comprehensive legislative review, but I do believe you are on point. Mr. Williams, could we speak to the Bill.
Mr. B. Williams: Mr. Speaker, I am much obliged. I was in fact just about to come off in terms of the holistic overview. I am not sure why my learned sister sees anything intimidating in what is coming. What we are saying is that the time has come in order not to discriminate against local sitting Judges and members of the Bar of this country. We must avail them every opportunity for promotion and development. So, the JSC must advertise any vacancy that they intend to fill so that local sitting Judges and members of this local Bar, living here and enduring all the hardship, ought not to be bypassed in favour of persons who are living overseas. We are talking about a holistic judicial system and this Summary Jurisdiction Bill is just one of the elements in that system. We cannot talk about getting one part of the system working and ignore the rest. The APNU is very interested because the Judicial Service Commission is a very important Commission. It appoints the members who are supposed to protect us and protect the citizens against the excesses of the state, and to ensure that the Constitution is adhered to and followed.
Moving on Mr. Speaker, the Bill itself does not stimulate much intellectual discussion. It is not a challenging Bill. In fact, we believe that time would have been better spent dealing with more serious legislation. The provisions of this Bill ought to have come in subsidiary legislation, for example, in the regulations. They could have been laid here for negative resolution and not trouble us. What we have is that for this whole afternoon we have been regaled with two Bills that really are not of that shattering significance. I am constrained to address it. As the Hon. Minister said, it is really dealing with ticketing.
Members’ on that side of the House’s sole focus is raising money. They intend, as it appears from this Bill, to raise money by any means necessary. We want to know if they had contemplated bringing such legislation and in fact fine-tuning the system of ticketing to raise revenue and whether it is reflected in any item in the budget that we only recently passed in this honourable House. What is going to happen is that when somebody decides that they need a little extra money, the police force could be deployed and persons would be getting tickets left, right and centre.
What this Bill is trying to do is that if you do not want to go to Court, you could pay. That is what this legislation is; if you do not want to go to Court, you could pay the bill. You could pay the amount for which you are ticketed. The Hon. Minister confined his deliberations to the Motor Vehicle situation, but it is wider than that. They could serve tickets in many areas. One of the areas provided for is most of those areas offences under section 153 of the Summary Jurisdiction Offences Legislation. I could give a couple of them for example that tickets could be given for. I am reading from section 153 of the Summary Jurisdiction Offences Act:
“Any person who does any of the following acts would be liable to a fine of $75...”
This of course would have been amended upwards, that is to say every person who, and I am giving an illustration, and this is important for the Minister himself, will except when acting on the obedience of lawful authority discharges any cannon. They did not distinguish between water cannon. They would be liable to be ticketed. This one again involves the Hon. Minister, exposing for sale cattle in improper places. You could ticket them. Remember you passed legislation to give people increased remuneration for catching strays.
Mr. Speaker: Are you speaking to the Motor Vehicles And Road Traffic Act?
Mr. B. Williams: No, Sir. I am not speaking to that I am speaking to the Summary Jurisdiction Procedure (Amendment) Act which is not limited to ticketing offences under the Motor Vehicles Act. I hope they are learning their lessons. I am teaching all the “babas” in the House. Being a lawyer yourself, when you go to Article 153 you will see a plethora of offences, including grooming of animals on a public way in town, placing goods in a public way in town. All these are things you could be ticketed for under the legislation. I am not going to continue to read. Those are just illustrations. Just imagine all those vendors on the roads in Georgetown on the pavements exhibiting their goods and the word goes down to bring in some revenue via the way of tickets, all the vendors would be ticketed. So, I do not know what the big deal is, this is a revenue raising attempt on the part of the government. We are saying that they ought not to detain this Hon. House with this type of legislation. They must bring more important legislation to this Hon. House so that we can get the business of this country going and not detain us whole afternoon. This could have come with a resolution that should not have detained us.
This is not something we should not support. All we are saying is that you should not detain us with that. This is something you could have had conversations with us about during the break. During the break Hon. Member Rohee could have spoken to us and we would have understood that you want to raise a little money and we would say no problem, but be very discretional how you approach it.
Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Bill is not of any earth moving significance in the law. It really tries to put in a procedure to ensure that people know that they could pay instead of going to court. That is all it does. Then, to ensure that people pay, clause 3 which deals with 8(a)(i) and 8(a)(a) and (b) actually makes provision if a person does not turn up and does not pay for the person’s licence to be taken away, but the Minister did not emphasise that. A person could be disqualified if given a ticket, does not pay the sum on the ticket, and does not turn up in court. That person can be disqualified and his/her licence taken away. And as the legislation says:
“Shall make an order disqualifying the alleged offender from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence until such time as the offender pays the sum specified under subsection 2.”
This is about getting some extra money via the route of ticketing. So, I would not detain this House any longer. I would admonish the Government to come to this House with more relevant and serious legislation in order to improve the governance of this country and the lives of the Guyanese people.
I thank you as I support, on behalf of the APNU, what they have brought. [Applause]
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