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….says matter is sub judice
A motion calling on the National Assembly to condemn the West Coast Berbice (WCB) murders, and if passed, would have ultimately set the stage for the Government to procure and finance the assistance of expert and professional investigators, was disallowed by the Speaker of the House, Manzoor Nadir on the grounds that the matter is now sub judice.
A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament, Geeta Chandan-Edmond had tabled the motion with eight whereas clauses seeking to garner support for enhanced investigations into the murders of Joel Henry and his cousin Isaiah Henry, and their friend Haresh Singh. The young men, all under the age of 20, “were brutally, barbarically, and horrifically killed,” Chandan-Edmond explained in one of the whereas clauses, while adding that their bodies were found at or near the Cotton Tree Back Dam in Region Five. The two cousins, who hailed from No. 3 Village, West Coast Berbice, were killed in September 2020, days apart from Singh.
When it was time for the motion to be debated in the 65 Member National Assembly, the Speaker brought to the House’s attention the fact that the matter is now before the Court, and is therefore considered sub judice.
“To entertain this motion at this time would put the Assembly in contravention of its own Standing Orders. Further entertaining this motion may ultimately jeopardize the ability of our justice system to conduct fair trials of persons before the Court,” the Speaker said.
He also pointed out that three persons have been arrested, charged and remanded for the murders of the Henry cousins, while the police are continuing their search for other suspected accomplices.
Against this background, Nadir drew the House’s attention to Standing Order 33 (1), which states: “On a motion may and when necessary seconded, the Speaker shall propose the question to the Assembly and, after debate, if any, shall then put the question for the decision of the Assembly.”
He said while the Standing Order allows for Members to table motions, it is not absolute, noting that in the current circumstances, it is limited by Standing Order 26 (G) which bars motions which are based on matters under adjudication by a court.
“Given that persons have been charged for these murders, and are now before the court, this is a matter that is under adjudication of a court of law. The legal effect of this therefore, is that the motion is not capable of being allowed at this time,” Nadir said.
He noted that the Standing Order gives effect to the sub judice principle which stipulates that public statements must not be made regarding a pending case for fear of their impact on public opinion. “For over two decades, I had previously served as a MP and I witnessed that this sub judice principle has been upheld by each and every speaker of the National Assembly. These Standing Orders, individually and collectively indicate conclusively that the position of this National Assembly is that which are engaging the attention of the Court and specifically this motion, at this time, shall not be debated,” Nadir said.
APNU+AFC Khemraj Ramjattan, in jumping to his feet, said while he understood the ruling, he thought that MP Chandan-Edmond and himself would have been informed earlier. In his hand, he held a copy of a ruling made by former Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, on the principle of sub judice. But the Speaker, said while he is willing to consider other rulings, including the one alluded to by Ramjattan, he will do so subsequently.
Outside of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), where the Assembly was being held, the family of the Henry cousins expressed their disappointment, and frustration at the quality of investigation being done by the Guyana Police Force.