Friday, September 3, 2010
Magistrate responds to Kaieteur News lies.
MAGISTRATE HAYMANT K. RAMDHANI: I refer to the article, “Accused tax evader feared dead after jumping into M’cony River published by Kaieteur News on Tuesday August 31, 2010 with the intention of setting certain facts right. At the outset, the media is tasked with the undying responsibility to the public to see that all publications are free from caricature. Many such instances arise in the said article and the damage cannot be overly emphasized especially the ones affecting either the Guyana Police Force or my magisterial responsibilities. So, when the media sets out to get news from third parties it must be cautious not to allow in any opinions, aspersions or beliefs for obvious reasons. Any inkling of doubt in the mind of a reporter is something for him to resolve prior to publication. As I later learnt the third party here is the said “James”, relative of the defendant Godwin Maxwell whom it is said escaped from lawful custody.
While presiding that day I saw James nearing unusually close to the Bench. I immediately raised my hand and he stopped short. As he was about to speak in open court, I heard the sound of a gunshot. I said nothing save “Rise Court” to the Orderly. At no time I ‘holler’ to any Rank ‘to desist from shooting the man’ as K. News suggested. Quite the opposite, I never saw who fired the shot and at no time James and I were looking through any window from the Mahaicony Magistrate’s Court. Consequently, the words, ‘me and the magistrate look through the window, same time we see a policeman lift he gun firing’ as K. News suggested are misplaced.
There was a duty squarely on the shoulders of the reporter that what James said that the magistrate said was in fact what the magistrate said. Work it out. In fact, what James said was hearsay making rich news, but unacceptable journalism.
Further, there are nine charges preferred against the defendant and not ten as K. News caused to be printed. And the defendant was granted bail in the sum of $45,000 on all charges and not $40,000 on each charge as K. News reported. Moreover, the defendant did not plead guilty to the charges when they were read to him as K. News stated; the defendant pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ on each charge in the presence of his lawyer. As such, his lawyer, Mr. Leslie Sobers could not have prompted the magistrate to alter defendant’s pleas as K. News posited. These facts have been poorly coined by the reporter resulting in tardy reporting.
Might I also suggest to the reporter that magistrates have chambers and not offices and relatives of defendants and defendants themselves are not permitted in Chambers. That would be inconsistent with protocol. My magisterial responsibilities do not permit me to meet with families of persons who have been charged with criminal offences. For one reason it puts the life of the magistrate at greater risk and for another it is highly improper. At no time James entered ‘my office’ as Kaieteur News stated.
I now refer to a another recent article published in Kaieteur News on the August 15 which reported that an arrest warrant was issued by Magistrate Mr. Haymant K. Ramdhani for a former judge on Friday while presiding at the Cove and John Magistrate’s Court. I would say that Friday is not a court day for the Cove and John Magistrate’s Court.
I suggest that reliable sources be sought by Kaieteur News but more importantly is that utmost care be taken when reporting on matters for public consumption, that reporters employ their investigative skills sufficiently to ascertain facts as they unfold. It is dangerous to hear one side of a story or rather a third party rattling off and then write verbatim without seeking to consult other concerned parties. Your quality time spent in getting the facts right would save the magistrate or the police or the public for that matter much embarrassment and uneasiness. I welcome quality journalism always and I do look forward to favourable changes.