An Educational Experience

Thanks to Facebook, I stumbled across the announcement of a workshop to be held last Saturday to discuss the ruling of Ian Chang on the Henry Greene case. I thought that was interesting enough in itself to warrant an attendance so I shelved the info to be retrieved later. Saturday arrived and, with it, news of Greene’s resignation as police chief. Guyanese life just gets more and more interesting.

I hunted up the workshop notice again and this time paid attention to the speakers. Excitement! They had a great line up:  University of Toronto lecturer (and editor of the Stabroek News diaspora column) Dr Alissa Trotz, psychologist Dr. Faith Harding, UWI lecturer Dr. Arif Bulkan, Red Thread’s Karen De Souza and attorney Ulele Burnham. Okay, I should admit right now that I only recognized half of these names – but they were enough to bring me down from the East Coast to St Stanislaus, a little late but still scoring second row with open ears and a possibly crazed gleam in my eyes. I was a little star struck. No, there were no celebrities. At least, no chutney queens or international professional wrestlers (I honestly can’t believe people actually keep track of that). Nah, there were just good old stalwarts of the Guyanese social justice movement. And then  some famed (or infamous) ruckus raisers. Obviously, it was the place to be if you were a major nerd.

The talks ran from 1:30 to past 6 o’clock with one TEN MINUTE break and short Q&A sessions. It was like attending a super lecture on Law for the Lay Person/Know Your Rights/Don’t Take Nonsense from Nobody and we stayed for it all. It. Was. Awesome.

My only complaint was that it’s not a regular event. At least a monthly affair would be great – pick a different social topic, bring in some experts, 5 and a half hour lecture – I’d pay to go to that! (There’s an idea…)

Anyway, there were brilliant speakers and brilliant commenters alike. In particular I’d like to highlight Karen’s reflection on Guyanese seeming to claim “illegitimate entitlement” (to litter the streets and so on) but giving up “legitimate entitlement” (to seek justice, to challenge the powers that be) and one commenter asking the question ‘What can we do to resuscitate our moral fibre?’ It wasn’t a competition or anything but Ulele Burnham was my favourite.

Ulele just laid it all out:

1. Stereotypes about women’s lives can influence unlawful judgment (acknowledging this fact, there are preventative measures in the U.K. to challenge “myths” judges may face).

2. There is no reliable evidence that there are more false complaints about rape than any other kind of crime.

3. No judge in the UK shall hear a serious case of rape unless he/she’s had specific training to be able to objectively preside over such a case.

She also left us with some pertinent questions including:

1. To what extent was social and economic status acknowledged?

2. To what extent are members of the judiciary and police provided with training for such cases?

3. Are judges and lawyers making stereotypical assumptions about the moral fortitude of women?

4. Under what circumstances should a reviewing court take such a case away from a jury?

5. Oughtn’t the court to learn about the man in question’s character?

6. How different would it have been if there were women represented in the judiciary?

Sigh. I miss school…

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9 thoughts on “An Educational Experience

  1. very good reflections on the event. I agree that there should be other such initiatives in Guyana… and you, Ayana and others will be at the podium also!

  2. So very clear Krysta! I do think we should work on Pat’s idea. Ideas have consequences you know and that one is bound to lead to something good! Very good report on the Workshop. Maybe this is what should have been printed instead of the attempt at sensational type article that Stabroek printed on Sunday last. Would you be willing to send this as a Letter to the Editor?

  3. The text and the comments so far seem to be centred around individuals. Interesting but not enough for a blog reporting on an event of such importance. Interesting because of whose daughter Ulele is, and her thoughts gleaned from this blog and other sources that I have been inspired to seek. Inadequate because we have no idea of what the other panelists said. The comments so far do not live up to the seriousness of the blog article. Hagiography is no response to critical thinking.

    Let me encourage you, Krysta, to continue with your insightful commentary. But I would like to know roughly what the response was on the points of law.

    I can be accused of being too cheap to take out a Stabroek News subscription to read the Sunday article mentioned and it may not be fair to expect you to be a reporter. Mea culpa.

    One of my heroines, let it be said, is Karen De Souza. Let it be said that she was braver than many in the 70s.

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