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Seeking to build public trust and confidence in the judiciary and the judicial system even amid the pandemic, the Supreme Court of Judicature, on Wednesday, launched its Public Education and Engagement Programme.
The launch took place virtually and featured remarks from Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Madam Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards; Chief Justice (ag), Madam Justice Roxane George; Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Lilian Chatterjee; Director of the JURIST Project, Gloria Richards-Johnson and Registrar of the Supreme Court, Sueanna Lovell.
In key remarks, the Chancellor stated that the campaign underscores the need for the judiciary to keep the public informed and to ensure that nothing halts access to justice.
“In putting into the public sphere, the information that society needs to know about the Court, public confidence in the administration of justice is engendered. The public education programme is definitely an important step in this regard,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice noted that just before the pandemic, a working group made up of members of the judiciary, the Bar Association of Guyana and the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers, were working to make the programme a possibility. Along with a consulting firm, they had intended to launch public education campaigns to build confidence in the judiciary and the judicial system.
However, the pandemic prevented this, initially, and the group instead launched the ‘We can still hear you’ campaign which assured the public that even during the global health crisis, access to justice was not discontinued.
Moving forward, the Chief Justice said that the ‘We can still hear you’ campaign will be further expanded even as the judiciary works towards the success of its initial programme, meant to build confidence in the established systems.
“We want to ensure that you, our Court customers matter. We assure you that your matters matter. We want to ensure you that ours is a judicial system in which you can place your trust and confidence,” she stated.
In brief remarks, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Lilian Chatterjee said that she is pleased which the strong emphasis being placed on public education and engagement.
“All members of the judicial system – judges, lawyers and magistrates – know the importance of the judicial branch in a democratic society…but, is this effectively communicated to the public? If the public doesn’t understand the value of the judicial branch they will not be willing to support it through their taxes and other funding or serve their role on juries or trust the decisions that come from the system,” she underscored.
The High Commissioner said that a lack of trust in judicial system can have grave consequences which is why Canada supports the programme and will lend its support to ensuring that it is a success. She urged the stakeholders to “bring to life” the landmark decisions made in Guyana’s Courts emphasizing on the real impact it has had on the society.
Director of the JURIST Project, Gloria Richards-Johnson said: “The systemic and responsible engagement of the public provides an important means not only to provide greater legitimacy to the Court but also to protect them from political exploitation.”
She stressed that public engagement will be able to offer a much more satisfying prospect but also reminded that all such engagements must be conducted with respect, must incorporate the views of the average citizen and must work to rectify concerns.
Also addressing the gathering was Registrar of the Supreme Court, Sueanna Lovell. She said that though the pandemic presented the Courts with significant challenges, steps have been taken to ensure that justice remains accessible.
Lovell assured: “As the public education project progresses, it will serve the overall communications needs of the judiciary and all citizens.”