Judge urges fearlessness in implementation of the constitution


 Judge Renaud giving his presentation yesterday

“No state, no institution will move if you have fear,” he said. “Fear destroys you and anything you want to do. This is one of the things we have to conquer otherwise we will still remain where we are.”

These views were expressed at a symposium on the role of the legal profession and courts in constitutional governance which was concluded yesterday, highlighting issues of far-reaching importance to the legal system.

The first session of the plenary discussion was held on June 17 to mark the opening of the Palais de Justice, but was extended to a second day due to the “overwhelming response” of the participants.

Some of the country’s finest legal minds were seated at the panel, including attorney-at-law Francis Chang-Sam, attorney general Ronny Govinden, Supreme Court judge Renaud, the president of the Bar Association of Seychelles (BAS), Anthony Derjacques and attorney-at-law Nichol Gabriel. Supreme Court judge Fiona Robinson, who was a panelist at the previous session, could not attend due to other commitments. Chief justice of the Supreme Court Fredrick Egonda-Ntende was also present to observe the discussions.

The symposium was attended by current and former judicial officers, legal practitioners, staff and students of the Law School at the University of Seychelles, representatives of the executive and legislative branches of government as well as representatives of civil society and interested members of the public.

The session started with a brief summary of the presentations made by some of the panelists in the previous session, and points such as the need for checks and balances in the making of judicial decisions, the debate around whether judges should still enjoy immunity from prosecution, the right to bail, the independence of the judiciary and whether Creole should be included as a language of the court were among the points raised.

Judge Renaud advised the delegates to come forward and be fearless in raising issues that were pertinent. He encouraged those present to make any type of presentation to the panel, including questions, criticisms and proposals.

“In the last session we did not complete all our conversations, so today I hope we will be able to work a bit further towards expressing ourselves in the very important subject of the judiciary and the analysis of the last 20 years and the prognosis for the future,” said Hon Justice Renaud.

“One thing we know, and I remember very well when we had this constitution 20 years ago, there were some writing on paper, and what we had to do next was give life to that writing on paper. I was ombudsman at the time and I remember certain occasions when I thought things were being done that did not follow the constitution. But I accepted that the interpreters of the constitution were the judges of the courts.”

“But other things which concerned me very much during those days was that the rules of the court regarding cases presented to court were such that many cases were thrown out on the rules of procedure, but the substance was not deliberated upon, and this made me think there was something wrong somewhere. Rules cannot supersede one’s rights,” he said.

Slowly, he added, the trend had changed and Seychelles judiciary had begun to give more recognition to the spirit rather than the letter of the law.

“Hopefully now with your input, this will change so that we have more meaning given to the words of the constitution so that the rule of law is upheld on all levels of society.”