Decades of friendship saved in the courtroom
By Leroy Smith
A dispute threatened to destroy a friendship that lasted decades, but in a matter of minutes, Berbice Magistrate Alex Moore had the issue resolved and aborted a lengthy trial that could have further soured relations.
Some two months ago, Mrs Yasodra Mahadeo and Mr Umadat Ramrattan got into a misunderstanding that quickly blew out of proportion; the husband and son of Mrs Mahadeo along with the wife and children of Mr Ramrattan were dragged into the argument.
Matters escalated and a slew of charges – ten in total – ranging from unlawful wounding to disorderly behaviour was levelled against all parties involved when they appeared before Magistrate Moore in Berbice.
After the charges were read, the parties pleaded not guilty and in the heat of the moment, were willing to head to trial, a date was set for trial and they appeared on November 1, 2017, for the commencement of same.
The Mahadeos came armed with the services of Arud Gossai, the former Director of Public Prosecutions of St. Kitts and Nevis while the Ramrattans came with Attorney-at-law and Member of Parliament Charrandass Persaud.
At the commencement of the matter, the Magistrate told both families that he had given them an opportunity to cool the tension and ease their emotions and then enquired if they still wished for a trial. The Mahadeos, through their lawyer, indicated to the court that Ramrattans were approached through their lawyer but a negotiation was inconclusive.
Magistrate Moore pointed out to both sides that going to trial was what both sides are bent on. And so he set out to do just that, but not before cautioning that a trial had the potential to see both sides emerging with faults which would attract penalties for the offences they each committed.
The parties immediately requested to confer with their legal representatives and the requests were granted by Magistrate Moore. At the end, they decided to offer no evidence against each other but requested that each side be placed on bonds.
This prompted the Magistrate to ask a series of questions of all parties and this brought out the long-running friendship that the families enjoyed prior to the incidents which lead to them to court.
The first set of questions was asked of Mr. Ramrattan by the Magistrate: “Do you know the other family?”
It turned out that Ms. Mahadeo and Mr. Ramrattan were from the same village in Canje, Berbice, and he knew her since he was a child; today he is 50 years old. The Magistrate asked if they were friends to which he replied, “we are not close.”
Puzzled, the Magistrate enquired how far apart they lived and Ramrattan responded, “two streets away your Honour.”
Moore continued: “Didn’t you play with her a child?”
“Did you live there all this time?”
The Magistrate then stated to Ramrattan: “Well Sir, a neighbour you have known that long is really a family member. Don’t you have cousins you don’t know as well as you know her?”
“Don’t you miss her?”
Magistrate Moore, taken aback by that final response, turned his attention to Mrs. Mahadeo and asked her: “Don’t you miss your friend?”
“Of course, Sir,” she quickly replied.
“I bet that surprises you Mr. Ramrattan,” the Magistrate said. He replied: “It did very much, Sir.”
When the Magistrate asked him how come he didn’t feel the same way, Ramrattan said he was afraid to approach Mahadeo as he was afraid of a harsh response.
In fact, it was revealed that both parties were afraid of a bad response so they decided to hold their speech and take the matter the court.
The court learned that while Mr. Ramrattan and Mrs. Mahadeo played as children, their children grew up together playing with each other also and now both have sons on the same cricket team.
After pointing out the value of the friendship they were throwing away the Magistrate asked Mr. Ramrattan if there was anything he wished to say to Ms. Mahadeo.
“The floor is open Sir. Now is your chance”.
Mr. Ramrattan began to express remorse to the court. The Magistrate interrupted him.
“You’re talking to her Sir, not to me. She’s over there”.
Mr. Ramrattan crossed the courtroom to Mrs. Mahadeo and began to express his regret. Even as he approached her, she began to hold her face and fight back tears. He then hugged her and she began to weep openly on his chest saying, “If you had only come to me before we could have finished this so long ago!”
Mr. Ramrattan could no longer hold back his emotions and he began to cry as well. The Magistrate said he believed that both sides had been carrying pain since the unfortunate incident and that while they came to court thinking they wanted trial what they really wanted was help.
Mr. Persaud – ever the humanitarian – was seen wiping his eyes and Mr. Gossai was overheard muttering playfully “Charan! Na cry now ya know!”
Even the Magistrate seemed to have some difficulty speaking as he encouraged the parties to continue along the path to healing that he had put them on.
He further opined that it was a shame that the matter wasn’t resolved before Diwali as both parties missed the chance to exchange sweetmeats. The laughter that erupted in the courtroom was the remedy needed to break the tension.
The Magistrate said he was satisfied that the parties did not need to be placed on bond. He closed the matter by holding the case jackets aloft like a Chinese fan.
“And finally, I’m going to show you a magic trick. I am going to make all these charges DISAPPEAR! That’s it for you folks. Good luck to all of you”.
And the matter ended.