Friday 12th May, 2006

 
Gillian Lucky, MP
 
 
 
 
 
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It just stinks

Please pardon the title if it offends you but it reflects the current state of national affairs. That the judiciary is once again embroiled in turmoil because of alleged impropriety on the part of those who should know better is a matter of great public concern.

So distressed are people who appreciate the gravity of the situation that one judge sitting in the criminal assize called on jurors to pray for those who hold public office, especially members of the judiciary.

The daily newspapers are filled with articles informing citizens about the history of events in the present scandal, forcing us to come to grips with the harsh reality that all is not well in our country.

The Prime Minister has cancelled an important trip because he found it inappropriate to leave the country in a time of crisis. If that be the case, then Mr Manning ought to forget about foreign travel for a long time to come since this country is in a total mess with his administration being partly, if not wholly, to blame.

Getting a headache

Even writing about the situation causes a headache of migraine proportions. People are being advised not to comment on the matter but to adopt a code of silence. This would be tantamount to giving consent to a whittling away of our democracy by this regime.

The press release from the office of the Attorney General on the alleged plot to smear the Chief Magistrate has had the effect of raising fears rather than quelling suspicion. The suggestion that there should be restraint on the part of the media because investigations are still at an early stage can be viewed as an attempt to unfairly muzzle the press.

Why should the media be prevented from reporting frankly on a matter of urgent, public importance? Had it not been for their publications, we would not have been aware of the live threat to our democracy.

It is the wheeling and dealing behind closed doors that have enabled this administration to compromise our democracy and surreptitiously seek to replace it with a dictatorship. Now everything has been blown wide open and those who are exposed must be prepared to face the consequences.

The plot thickens

If the allegation by the Chief Justice is true—that there is a political conspiracy to oust him from office—then the conspirators, inciters, aiders and abettors ought to resign with immediate effect.

This country can ill-afford to have high office holders plotting and planning the demise of one who occupies the third highest position in the land.

It is not simply the rank held that makes the situation intolerable but the fact that the Chief Justice of a country has the very important role of ensuring the efficient and effective administration of justice. It is his primary function to ensure that the streams of justice remain undefiled.

The fact that the Chief Justice had no alternative but to partly fight this battle in the public domain where the terrain is as open as it hostile, means that it is an all-out war.

The Chief Justice has stated that “the rule of law is under threat and our democratic system is in crisis. In this situation, the population is entitled to nothing less than full transparency.”

And Justice Sharma is right. Without prejudging the issue, it is incumbent on the national community to stand firm and resolute in defence of our democracy. We should not rely on the fear of victimisation as the excuse for our inaction. We have to demand that the truth be told and after the battle for justice is fought, only truth must be left standing. Half-truths, lies and innuendos must be permanently laid to rest.

The casualties may be many but in the end justice must prevail.

Free-for-all

For too long we have allowed serious unresolved matters to be swept under the carpet. For example, to date we do not know the whereabouts of the papers in the Biche High School inquiry that went missing, or who gave the instruction to the police prosecutor in the Tobago Magistrate’s Court to offer no evidence against the Bajan fishermen.

It was issues such as these that should have sent the warning signals that wrongful executive interference was being tried and tested in our still waters of democracy. Unfortunately, the matters were allowed to pass without the facts being disclosed.

Once it was shown that there was little or no public pressure for truth or accountability, the perpetrators realised that their acts of indiscretion could get more atrocious, and they have.

Now it is a free-for-all with this regime sending the message that appropriate channels can be by-passed in favour of laying complaints and even false accusations at the feet of high-profile executive members.

Since when does the Executive direct that a person should either resign or face prosecution on a criminal charge? If there has been the commission of a criminal offence, is it not a perversion of the course of justice to dictate such an ultimatum?

Perhaps those advising the Prime Minister ought to take a quick refresher course in the basic concepts of the rule of law and due process. What is clear is that if the accusations made by the Chief Justice are true, then some heads will have to roll.

No longer sacred

The firmest pillar of good governance is the proper administration of justice. When justice is perceived to be compromised then all hell breaks loose and strict adherence to law and order is impossible. How comfortable will litigants feel going before the courts knowing that this “supposed to be sacred” institution is susceptible to acts of impropriety?

How is this alleged shameless display of inappropriate conduct going to be resolved and are there people brave and independent enough to ensure that the correct action is adopted?

Undoubtedly, something has to be done fast to restore the sanctity of the institutions that are being labelled as corrupt. We must not stand idly by and allow our democracy to be destroyed for, in the end, we will all be losers.

 

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