Former President Bharrat Jagdeo has been summoned to appear in court over allegedly making “racially divisive” statements at the Babu John memorial for late President Cheddi Jagan.
The private criminal charges were filed against the former President by Attorney and Financial Analyst Christopher Ram. Jagdeo has been summoned to appear in court on April 20, 2015.
Ram is contending that Jagdeo’s statements at Babu John about the beating of drums to drive out one race by another out of office, could result in ethnic violence or hatred as cited in the Representation of the People Act. Under that Act, the former President could face a fine and prison time, if he is found guilty.
Mr. Jagdeo has retained the services of former Attorney General, Senior Counsel Bernard DeSantos who in a statement on Thursday afternoon rubbished the private criminal charge.
DeSantos said “I have examined the statements allegedly made by Mr. Jagdeo and which form the basis of the charge; I have examined the section of the law under which the charge has been laid and in my view the charge is frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the process of the court in which it has been filed. Indeed, it is a gross misinterpretation and colossal misuse and abuse of section 139D of the Representation of the Peoples Act, Cap1:02.”
He further stated that private criminal charge constitutes an abridgment of the constitutional right and freedom of his client to speak and express himself freely.
“Indeed, this unprecedented use of a criminal charge to muzzle speakers at public political events is an assault on the democratic right of political leaders to speak freely on matters of national interest as well as a violation of the democratic right of the citizenry to receive such information. I can only imagine the devastating consequences which can flow if the criminal justice system will be used in such a manner and across the political divide. This is nothing more than political sensationalisation and mischief.”, DeSantos added.
The Media Monitoring Unit of the Guyana Elections Commission in its first report for the 2015 elections described the Jagdeo statements at Babu John as “racially divisive” although the report contended that it may not have been intentional.
The Unit said it offered comment on the speech after it was aired nationally on state and private tv stations.
Filed: 9th April, 2015