December 12, 2004
By Raffique Shah
INEQUALITY in the eyes of the law, unfairness in society, and injustice against the poor will continue for as long as we have among us people who are crying foul over the arrest for murder of Dr Vijay Naraynsingh and his associates. It is incomprehensible that the very people who accuse the authorities of not upholding law and order, those who sneer at the police for not making arrests in kidnappings and murders, would display their true colours by calling for the good doctor to be given all kinds of special privileges.
I am not remotely suggesting that the doctor's friends should not lend him support when he needs it most. Far from it, being innocent until proven guilty, the "doc" deserves support from his friends, from members of the temple where he worshipped.
Having been through a similar ordeal many years ago, I understand just how important it is to the accused to see his friends and relatives rally around him. But expressions of personal support must not be allowed to degenerate into attempts to subvert the course of justice. And an accused person's standing in society ought never to influence the handling or outcome of his matter, although, too often, we see this happen.
Let us not forget that we are dealing with the alleged contract murder of a young naturopathic doctor, a crime that shocked the nation. The then estranged wife of Dr Naraynsingh had just emerged from her practice at the Langmore Foundation clinic when, in cold blood, at point blank range, she was shot five times. She died on the spot, barely managing a smile to her killer before he "out her light". Ever since the killer was brought to justice-and that took a suspiciously long time-people have been asking about who was or were behind the contract.
In fact, I need add that I did not think Shawn Parris should have had his charge reduced to manslaughter, and I am still pissed off that he would one day walk the streets of this country having confessed to a most brutal, senseless killing. But that seems to be the way to go now. Levi Morris was allowed that luxury in the Dole Chadee matter, as was Clint Huggins, and in the Dhanraj Singh-Hansraj Sumairsingh matter, another trigger man whose name I do not now recall was allowed to walk.
Parris should have felt the full weight of the law, whether or not he agreed to finger those behind the alleged contract. If, on Death Row, he chose to name the conspirators, to testify against them, then so be it.
Be that as it may-and the law ever so often proves itself to be the proverbial ass-even Naraynsingh's closest friends must understand that once the doctor is charged with murder he has to face the consequences. These include being placed on an identification parade, which itself turned out to be a circus. When John Doe is arrested for, say, rape, the police will simply grab six persons off the street who barely resemble Doe, line them up, and in instances, are known to also tell the victim who to identify!
In Naraynsingh's case, the attorneys made a big song and dance about the unfairness of the parade. Then, having been identified, he is taken to prison, searched, and placed in a cell. There he sits, attends court when the matter is called, and will either be freed at the end of the preliminary enquiry or be committed to stand trial.
Courtesies like being placed in the infirmary in an environment that is known for its barbarism are frowned upon, regarded as being discriminatory, but really I have no problem with them. I know of what I write. I was there, and while my fellow soldiers were trained to deal with adversity, many people who made stupid mistakes or thought they could get away with "white collar" crimes like fraud, used to break down and cry like babies once the "turnkeys" slammed those medieval oak doors behind them.
So especially where a person is presumed innocent, if he or she can be helped to cope with conditions, I see nothing wrong with that. In a similar manner, I have repeatedly appealed to the authorities to keep people sent to jail for trivial offences away from hardened criminals. In fact, I don't believe many of them should be jailed, since prison for them turns into a school of crime.
But having been arrested and charged, Vijay, his wife and the other accused must face the music. Why must his case be fast-tracked "because many patients would die if he stays long in jail"? Didn't Chandra have patients who depended on her for their lives? Aren't there other doctors who can attend to his patients? And is he the first "high society" person to face a murder charge? Not at all.
Dr Dalip Singh did many years ago, and I don't think either his attorneys or his medical friends behaved the way those who are involved in this case are behaving. If, at the end of the day, they are found not guilty of the charge, then all hail to them.
What, though, if they are found guilty (and I don't wish to speculate since the matter is sub judice)? Will his friends organise marches and motorcades to try to influence the Court of Appeal? Will they fast to death outside the jail in solidarity with the doctor? These are very relevant questions because what we have witnessed thus far in this matter are "amazing scenes".
Are these not the same people who are disgusted when scores of topeed-men stalk the court whenever Abu Bakr makes an appearance? I certainly do, because I see it as an attempt to intimidate the magistrate or judge. But the point here is we cannot blow hot and cold on crime. It's either we stand up for law and order and justice, or we buckle under the crime wave. We can also, through our words and actions, show that we believe a certain class in the society should be insulated from the usually long arm of the law.
I hope my concerns expressed here are also the concerns of the wider society. Because if they are not, what we are signalling is that there is one law for the rich or the professional or the really brutal criminals, and another for the poor and powerless. Maybe that was always the case. But it's wrong. And because Naraynsingh has standing in the society does not allow him, his attorneys, or his friends, the right to thumb their noses at the law.