Praxis, Olympics and the Guyana Judicial System
Prepared by Teni Housty Attorney-at-Law, LL.M.; MBA
ntroduction In 2011, the author was introduced to an article written by Ann L. Cunliffe (2004) entitled “On Becoming a Critically Reflexive Practitioner.” Cunliffe (2004) highlights the notion and power of praxis to be: “Questioning our own assumptions and taken-for-granted actions, thinking about where/who we are and where/who we would like to be, challenging our conceptions of reality, and exploring new possibilities”. It is with this notion of praxis in mind that this contribution examines aspects of the judicial system in Guyana through what has emerged as the reality of the Rio 2016 Olympics. This contribution continues with a discussion of Ceremonial opening, followed by a perspective on medals, recognition and reflections. New events and New Rules are then explored with the necessary discussion of technology, challenges and delays. As all Olympic events end with a victory ceremony, the victories of opportunities are highlighted with a few concluding thoughts.
Ceremonial openings For those who witnessed the Opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympics, there may be mixed reviews. The fact that Guyana was not clearly featured on the ESPN broadcast highlighting Caribbean countries was somewhat disappointing, in the praxis context: where were we? For the criminal aspect of our judicial system, there are quarterly ceremonial openings of the Criminal Assizes in Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo. As the past few days have indicated, it is not the ceremony but the actual events in the various disciplines. The opportunity is to focus on the cases, the reduction of delays, the retrials and not so much on the ceremony. Medals, recognition and reflections Swimming was the dominant event in week one. Michael Phelps’ medals were a highlight. For supporters of gymnastics like the author, the medals of Simone Biles were memorable. Week two was punctuated by the unprecedented individual accomplishments of Usain Bolt and the precedent following submission of Elaine Thompson in the finals of the 100m and 200m.
For legal practitioners, the medals for distinction from one perspective would be the award of silk (appointment as senior counsel). Since 1996, there have been six Olympic Games. However, there have been no medals awarded in the legal profession in Guyana. As we are dealing with the power of praxis, should other perspectives be adopted to measure the achievements of practitioners in our judicial system? Is it better to the holder of an Olympic medal or the holder of a world record? Who would we really like to be?
New Events and New Rules Several events have entered the Rio 2016 Olympics. The choice for comparison is Rugby Sevens. An event introduced only after there was equality between men and women in the sport. The new events in Guyana have been introduced by the New Family Procedure Rules. Who are the likely preferred teams, males or females or mixed? It is noted that there is at least one mixed sailing event in which Aruba competed from the Caribbean region. In the gold medal game of the Rugby Sevens the men from the Fiji Islands defeated the men from the United Kingdom, through the eyes of a lawyer, the Fiji victory can be seen as a symbolic triumph of an indigenous legal system over common law origins and colonial masters. Are we truly ready for the liberation of our legal system? A further opportunity to break the shackles of colonialism may be with the eventual passage of the Civil Procedure Rules in this Olympic year to replace the Rules of Court of 1955. A point to note is that the sport of golf has returned to the Olympics. Forward ever, backward never? Or one step forward two steps backwards? Through a praxis lens, where are we? Technology, challenges and delays Replays and challenges were highlighted as innovations in both versions of the sport of Volley Ball, so much so that China was recalled to finish a preliminary match based on the use of the challenge and replay system. In the Guyana judicial system much needs to be done to incorporate the benefits of technology. The present assumptions include that: a matter once filed will take
decades to finish; there is a tremendous backlog of matters; judges take notes by hand and give decisions in writing as opposed to written decisions. For the players in the Guyana judicial system, the suggestion must be to look for opportunities among the challenges, therefore we must adopt and utilise the benefits of technology both for real time events, replays and decisions on challenges. It is time to perform beyond our lowered expectations. Efficiency, effectiveness and truth would be the likely results.
The victory of opportunities It has been an Olympics for bans, appeals, lawyers, investigations, injunctions and restraints of movement. Though the arenas may be different there are similarities between the Olympics and the judicial system. Like it or not, lawyers are always needed. For the author, 2016 has been a year of accomplishments in many sports. The images of victory are unforgettable, these include the win of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals, the win of the West Indies in the World T20 finals, the days of wins of Jamaican athletes in multiple Olympic events, not to forget the merger of two Olympic elements (land and water) usually kept separate (except for the triathlon) with the golden dive of Shaunae Miller from the Bahamas in the 400m females finals. At the same time there is nothing attractive of the faces of losing, the power of praxis allows us to perceive the situation to our benefit, the suggestion is that application of praxis for the challenges of the judicial system in Guyana. Usain Bolt’s victory in the 200m race and then the team victory in 4x100m relay are most telling. Strive for the best, be the best, if the rest do not push you, that is fair because at the end of the day you are still a winner.