FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND THE CITIZEN


On Wednesday last the public was treated to a brilliant and expansive lecture by the former Chancellor (ag) of the Judiciary and now Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence at the University of Guyana, Carl Singh. The subject was “The Constitutional Guarantee of Fundamental Rights and the Citizen. The lecture, to a packed hall and attentive audience at Herdmanston House, was the third in the series “Conversation on Law and Society.” Chancellor Singh started by pointing out that while citizens may not always be cognizant of what their right are, they are certainly aware that the Constitution guarantees them, which they are often prepared to aggressively defend. He related the story of a visitor to a hospital in Georgetown who was being prevented from entering because the visiting hours had come to an end. During the argument between the visitor and the hospital staff, the visitor loudly proclaimed that it was her constitutional right to enter the hospital to visit her relative!

Chancellor Singh explored a wide range of issues, not all of which can be examined here. A few are selected.

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MANDELA


For most politically conscious people of my age, Nelson Mandela has been with us all our lives. I was not yet a teenager in the late 1950s when I remember a sticker on my father’s car ‘End Apartheid Now,’ the meaning of which I only later learnt. By the time the Rivonia Trials came around, and because I was from a political home, I could feel the impact of the trial and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues because all the adults around me felt and talked about it.

In the ensuing years the entire PPP and all the current leaders of my generation were deeply affected by apartheid and were involved in the struggle against it. Most of us knew many South Africans from the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party and met many others during travels to overseas conferences. The anti-apartheid movement in the UK was very powerful during the time I was a student and afforded the opportunity to me and thousands to contribute tangibly to freedom for South Arica and all political prisoners.

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