The Shawnette Bollers case  

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The dismissal of a private criminal charge against attorney at law Nirvan Singh by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack has understandably outraged many Guyanese.

Singh, an Indo-Guyanese man, is the son of former Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh. It is alleged that on March 20, he used racially hostile language against Woman Constable Shawnette Bollers, who is an Afro-Guyanese. According to the particulars of the charge, Woman Constable Bollers had been on duty at the residence of former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh on Middle and Cummings Streets, Georgetown. It is alleged that, by means of words spoken by [Nirvan Singh] in a public place, wilfully excited and or attempted to excite hostility and ill-will against Bollers on the ground of her race as an Afro-Guyanese by using words directed to her and published by him, to wit: “black monkey,” “monkey,” “black people have no purpose in life;” contrary to the provisions of Section 2(1) of the Racial Hostility Act Cap 23:01. Singh was charged; he had pleaded not guilty to the charge in April, and was scheduled to return to court on May 18 having been placed on $100,000 bail.

On May 18 Singh made his second appearance in court. On that date, Principal Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs — before whom the matter was to be heard — read a letter addressed to the Chief Magistrate, in which the DPP exercised powers conferred on her by Article 187 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana to discontinue the charge against Singh. As such the charges were dismissed. The DPP offered no reason for the decision. There has since been a loud public backlash and widespread criticism of the DPP’s decision. The DPP has responded by doubling down. Her office issued a statement which said, “We wish to state that the Office will continue to operate in accordance with the Constitution and the relevant laws which are concerned in each case. The Office will continue to uphold the rule of law as it is mandated to do. The Office wishes to inform all persons that the DPP’s Office will not be intimidated or hindered by cheap and baseless attempts on partisan positions in carrying out its constitutional functions.” The statement said, too, “The DPP’s Office reassures the public that it will continue to remain apolitical, and act in a lawful and professional manner devoid of any prejudices.”

This matter raises numerous questions across a wide spectrum of issues. The most obvious issue is that involving race. Mr. Singh, who is clearly the beneficiary of the DPP’s decision is Indo-Guyanese, while his accuser is Afro-Guyanese. One may consider this fact in the context of the current reality. Since the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) came to power in August 2020, there have been allegations of institutionalised racism made against it. Those allegations — too many to count — have been levelled against the regime from a variety of diverse sources. Additionally, despite the DPP’s Office’s claim of being “professional” and “apolitical,” it is generally believed that the PPP has infiltrated almost every facet of society, and has taken — or is in the process of taking — control of every power-base in Guyana. The Office of the DPP is without doubt a significant power base.

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Other issues raised by this matter include the fact that Mr. Singh is a man; his accuser is a woman. The backdrop, in this instance, is the general consensus that there is gender inequality in Guyana; women are at a disadvantage. One notes too, that Attorney at Law Singh is the son of a former Chancellor of the Judiciary; his family may be considered wealthy, powerful, and influential. On the other hand, his accuser is a Constable of Police who was, at the time of the alleged incident, guarding the home of the powerful family. Considering the alleged incident within the context of Guyana’s social reality. Is it surprising that citizens are outraged? It would appear that the outrage of Guyanese is not only to be expected, but is entirely justified.



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