ELECTIONS PETITIONS


Last Thursday, two elections petitions, which were filed shortly after the elections results were declared on August 2, were heard before the Chief Justice. The elections petitions were fixed for what is called a case management conference. This is a routine procedure in civil matters in the High Court. It is a preparatory stage to resolve preliminary issues so as to settle all preliminary matters prior to the trial. Case management conferences can be routine or complicated depending on the nature of the case. Election matters, or at least the second matter filed, fall into this second category. There were many issues which arose for consideration. Some were raised by lawyers and some by the Chief Justice. These issues are dealt with below.

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SQUATTING: LAND POLICY AND DISTRIBUTION


Flooding the land on which squatters have unlawfully occupied, conjures up some of history’s most oppressive episodes. The first time a PPP government engaged in this activity, Mrs. Janet Jagan privately expressed her appalled dismay. The reason she gave was articulated in one newspaper’s editorial yesterday. Flooding was used as a weapon after slavery against the land hungry victims of that era. At those times, land was needed not only for accommodation but for growing crops to consume and sell to aid physical survival. I am therefore surprised at the use of flooding against squatters once again. Of course, the Government may not have been directly responsible. But the fact that one of its agencies obviously made the decision to flood the area, it is the Government that has to take responsibility. While the Government has not acknowledged such, the President has moved with alacrity to address the problem, while at the same time urging the Success squatters “to do it the right way.”

Squatting cannot be condoned for many reasons, the least being that it is illegal. It would be no surprise that those who have made significant efforts to acquire land and construct homes are not in sympathy with squatters, who also are frequently allowed to jump the queue. They receive advanced consideration as against those who have been waiting for years for the allocation of land. Also, squatting also invites not only those who are genuinely in need, but also undesirable elements who pose threats not only to other squatters but to surrounding communities. In news reports these concerns have been expressed.

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POLITICAL LIFE AND AFTERLIFE IN THE THIRD WORLD


Political lifespan in the third world, unlike the developed world, accords generally with the person’s physical lifespan, if no intervening political, health or other event intervenes to terminate the political career. Most politicians hardly ever contemplate the tenuous nature of a political life. Once office is obtained, many believe that they are fixated for life. When the office is terminated by natural political causes, convulsive anger is displayed. We saw it in Guyana recently.

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STRENGTHENING DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS


At the 151t Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on Friday last, President Irfaan Ali said: “The Republic of Guyana has just emerged from a bruising test of its democracy. My government is committed to strengthening the country’s democratic institutions and to insulating them from the threat of being undermined.”

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BLOOD ON THE RIVER


The Berbice Slave Rebellion of 1763 is a seminal event in Guyanese history, commemorated by Guyana’s most famous work of sculpture at the south eastern entrance to the Georgetown city centre. Republic Day and Mashramani celebrations take place in February. The Rebellion’s lessons of the enduring quest for freedom, the display of statesmanship and courageous leadership, have been inculcated as part of the Guyanese consciousness and have shaped our aspirations.

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