Friday 28th July, 2006

Gillian Lucky, MP
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Time to respond

The accusations continue to fly and no one is being spared. It appears that as long as you differ with the views of the members of the Executive or expose their impropriety, you are subject to attack.

The matter that began as an issue concerning the Chief Justice and his alleged conduct in two criminal prosecutions has mushroomed into an unfolding drama that continues to make headlines and raise eyebrows.

With limited information being placed in the public domain and the deliberate attempt by some to encourage citizens to determine the issues based on political allegiance, the administration of justice is suffering one of the worst blows that could ever have been imagined.

And who is to blame for all the hysteria and distrust that abound in our society? Perhaps more importantly, who is going to take responsibility to restore honesty, integrity and decency in the administration of justice?

For those who believe that this too will pass and optimistically predict that our nation will recover unharmed from the present impasse, they are sadly mistaken.

This is not a simple issue involving alleged inappropriate action. This is a matter that has proven that we live in a petty society too immature to resolve issues in an impartial and independent fashion.

What is worse is that those who hold high office have given poor showings when called upon to perform making the citizenry aware that there is a leadership crisis in our country. And because of the sustained attack on decent men and women there is a depletion of dependable and reliable leaders.

So, in the midst of all the scandal, bacchanal and chaos, to whom do we turn?

Letter by letter

The most recent controversy at the time of writing surrounds correspondence sent by the Attorney General to Russell Martineau, SC, accusing him of not exercising good judgment by chairing the meeting of the Law Association last week.

In his opening salvo, the AG took the opportunity to indicate, amongst other things, that his attendance at the annual “wine and cheese” party was done in his capacity as the titular head of the Bar and at great personal sacrifice. Obviously, the AG is a man of all work and no play.

But of what relevance is his admission that as a private practitioner he never enjoyed a good relationship with the Law Association? If the association is too focused on matters of pomp and ceremony, ritual and form, why has the AG never suggested some topics for lively debate and discussion by his professional colleagues?

For example, one issue which I would like to debate is whether the legal profession ought to be divided once again into barristers and solicitors.

What he really did

The AG stated in his letter that he was “measured, unmotivated by rancour and consistent with the highest tradition of dignity required by my office,” yet much of the content of his correspondence was nothing short of a personal attack on a man who by his conduct has always been regarded as objective, independent and competent in the exercise of his duties.

Mr Martineau has achieved greatness in his career and has represented the State in several matters too numerous to mention.

In his profession, Mr Martineau is considered one of the local legal luminaries who can be depended upon for fairness, honesty, integrity and decency. Many junior and senior lawyers would readily agree that Mr Martineau is not one to flaunt his authority or behave inappropriately in any courtroom.

It is my respectful view that the AG was wholly out of place to suggest that Mr Martineau, by chairing the meeting in his capacity as president of the Law Association, “has not set an example of impartiality and integrity particularly to the younger members of the profession.”

In fact, Mr Martineau is unquestionably a lawyer who leads by example and is a fitting mentor for those who strive to achieve excellence in the field of law. That he should be targeted by the AG is a startling development that must be monitored. The AG has definitely picked the wrong person to engage in a war that he alone understands.

The response

In his very concise and measured response, consistent with his reputation to maintain dignity and the highest traditions of the Bar, Mr Martineau has refused “to engage in any matter of personalities and to call into question the integrity or bona fides of anyone.”

If the AG took issue with Mr Martineau chairing the meeting of the Law Association, then he should have handled the situation in a different manner. Resorting to writing in a personal and scathing tone suggests that the AG may be suffering from a severe attack of the arrogance of power.

Why didn’t the AG seek a private meeting with Mr Martineau in order to raise his concerns and to satisfy himself that his accusation was with merit?

Why use the public domain to engage in a debate which, according to Mr Martineau, is sterile?

Or is it that the AG is a sore loser and still cannot come to terms with the fact that the majority of lawyers who attended the meeting voted in favour of the motion to retain Senior Counsel to determine whether his comments in an address to the nation amount to contempt of court?

One would have thought that the AG would have been disappointed with the remarks of a Senior Counsel that “those south of the Caroni Bridge voted in a particular way” and would have dissociated himself from such a statement.

After all, that utterance is an insult to all intelligent people from the southland who would have voted according to conscious and not simply to win favours or get state briefs.

The AG should realise that he is not the only person who is not afraid to say or do that which is required to be said or done. But it is hoped that those who enter the battlefield in defence of that which is right and noble are not killed with the arrows of vengeance or the bullets of deceit.






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