Dear Editor,I write to convey my serious concern on the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to free the men responsible for the Lusignan Massacre of the charges which were laid against them.While the massacre may have caused fear to nestle in the hearts and minds of Guyanese men, women and children, the decision of the CCJ on May 11 sent shock waves of terror across the length and breadth of this land of many waters.Before one endeavours to examine the decision to which the court came, and whether justice was done, one must be reminded of how the case progressed through the courts of Guyana.On January 26, 2008, Lusignan was forever scarred by the massacre, which claimed eleven innocent lives, five of whom were children. The Police later arrested several men, two of whom were indicted for the murder of the eleven persons. Following a substantial misdirection and several material irregularities at the Victoria Law Courts, the jury unsurprisingly returned a verdict of not guilty.The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed the acquittal. The Court of Appeal, in agreeing with the DPP, overturned the verdict of not guilty and ordered a retrial in the interest of justice.Thereafter, the duo appealed to the CCJ; which ruled, among other things, that their acquittal be restored.It is now that one would attempt to analyse, with brevity, the written decision of the CCJ. The court had many questions to answer before they could have come to a conclusion. It is worth noting that a majority of these questions being answered favourably for one side does not mean that that side has won the case. In this case, twelve (12) issues/questions arose, but the determining issue was the proper test to be applied on a prosecution appeal against an acquittal.The court posited that the prosecution must satisfy the court that, given on the one hand the nature and weight of the evidence as a whole, and on the other hand the seriousness of the judicial error(s) or procedural flaw(s), it can, with a substantial degree of certainty, be inferred that had the error(s) or flaw(s) not occurred, the trial would not have resulted in an acquittal of the accused.Apart from this test, which was strangely devised, the manner in which the court applied it is mind-boggling and most unfortunate. The CCJ found that there were significant irregularities in the selection of the jury, and the failure of the trial judge to order an investigation into the alleged improper communication with a juror constituted a material irregularity.Moreover, there was a substantial misdirection in the summation to the jury, to the extent that the trial judge failed to properly counterbalance the allegations of Police impropriety, launched by the accused from the safety of the dock, with a direction pointing out to the jury the fact that that allegation was not supported by evidence; and that great caution should have been taken when considering the allegations, since the accused could not have been cross-examined.How could they have agreed with the Guyana Court of Appeal on these points, YET allow the appeal? IT JUST DOES NOT FOLLOW!Notwithstanding all of these serious errors and flaws, the Trinidad-based court found that the sixteen (16) prosecution witnesses, which included Dwane Williams and Durwin Wright, who both testified as being part of the “Fine Man” gang when the appellants (James Hyles and Mark Williams) took active roles in killing the eleven innocent persons in Lusignan, did not constitute sufficient evidence upon which it could have ordered a retrial. The prosecution had two (2) witnesses, and the credibility of these witnesses IS AN ISSUE FOR THE JURY TO DECIDE, and not this final appellate court.If this foreign court cannot infer, from the overwhelming evidence adduced by the prosecution, that the jury would have convicted the appellants, then it cannot be depended upon to deliver decisions which are just and of a high quality.It is no wonder that most of the Caribbean countries have resisted accession to the CCJ. Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica did not hold referendums to join the CCJ; and governments, fearing rejection because of the current rate at which the court is going, are and will continue to be reluctant to take that course of action. When St. Vincent held a referendum to determine whether their final appellate court should be in Trinidad, they rejected it. The decisions of the CCJ ferment widespread dissatisfaction because of their poor quality, and more and more, the people of Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean are coming to be cognisant of this fact.The time has come for the CCJ to be abolished, as it has not only failed the people of Guyana, but it has failed them miserably. Guyanese have been forced to deal with the CCJ because it had been left without a proper third court when the Republic abolished the Privy Council in 1972 and replaced it with nothing for thirty years.In 2001, when the CCJ was established, it was the hope of Guyanese that justices of that court would have displayed a great degree of erudition and skill. However, this has been proven to be quite far from the truth. Decisions like the one in the Lusignan Massacre case, Sichand Harrychand, AG for Guyana vs. Dipcon all point towards the direction of no-confidence.Dissatisfaction with the CCJ will intensify, and fewer cases will be taken to it, as justice is not being improved. The high standards of the Privy Council are not known by this regional court, which is losing the confidence of both the people of Guyana and other Caricom member states every time a decision is handed down.IN GIVING THE DECISION IT DID, THE COURT ACTED LIKE A FOREIGN COURT, REMOVED FROM THE PEOPLE OF GUYANA, AND PARTICULARLY THE PEOPLE OF LUSIGNAN.Sincerely,Ramesh GirdhireResident of Lusignan,Guyana
In its effort to help bridge the digital divide, the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) has announced significant reductions in the cost of its residential Internet service rates for its Gold and Silver customers, effective from January 1, 2017.GTT Head officeGold has been reduced by 36 per cent to $9599, while the Silver is down 16 per cent to $8399.According to a statement from GTT, these reductions are evident of the company’s commitment to continue offering its Internet service to customers, with significantly more value on its plans, even as the company focuses on pushing faster and more reliable broadband services into homes and businesses.These higher tiers enable users to stream, surf and download faster at speeds up to 10 megabytes per second. The Bronze service, ideal for casual surfing such as the use of email services, is up now to $5999.GTT is guaranteeing customers that these prices will remain unchanged when the new Value Added Tax (VAT) regime comes into effect.“We are committed to bringing more affordable Internet to our customers and excited tocontinue to bridge Guyana’s digital divide. This is just the first in a number of exciting changes that GTT will be offering its customers in 2017, with significant speed and service quality upgrades on the horizon,” the company stated.The telephone giant launched the Internet plans back in April 2016, offering 10 megabytes per second (MBPS) Internet speeds, five times faster than what was previously offered and with no extra cost to its customers.Then Chief Executive Officer Radha Krishna Sharma had explained that the Internet service would be sold in bronze, silver and gold packages within the range of 1MBPS to 10MBPS. Bronze package subscribers paid the usual $4999 monthly.Silver package customers paid $9980 but with improved speeds of up to 5MBPS, while Gold package subscribers had up to 10MBPS, at $14,979 per month.While the cost is reduced on residential Internet services, only recently Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Justin Nedd told media operatives that with the introduction of VAT on broadband Internet service and data plans sold to mobile and corporate customers, the company would incur an additional expense in the vicinity of US$6 million (G$1.2 billion).Nedd pointed out that GTT already forked over more than half of its earnings to taxes and pointed to a 45 per cent Corporate Tax.