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…