fundamental mistake made by Prime Minister Patrick Manning
and his Government in attempting to find a resolution to the
first set of allegations made against Chief Justice Satnarine
Sharma was to agree to mediation behind closed doors. After
eating up valuable time, 19 months of obviously futile back
and forth, mediation has been abandoned and the matter is
now before the High Court.
Private mediation could never have satisfactorily settled
such an allegation as the one made against the Chief Justice.
Once the matter was out in the public, a privately mediated
settlement would have had little credibility in the eyes of
Here are senior officers of the State, the Attorney General
and the Director of Public Prosecutions, making serious allegations
against the Chief Justice. Then there were the two judges
allegedly playing bit parts in the drama and the Prime Minister
finding there sufficient gravamen to the allegations to require
the President to establish a tribunal, with a final decision
ultimately to come from the British Privy Council.
From what has been carried in the media, the stories are diametrically
opposed to each other: it is either the AG and the DPP are
lying on the Chief Justice as part of some grand political
plot to get rid of Mr Sharma or the Chief Justice has a few
serious allegations to answer; no middle ground and therefore
behind-the-scenes mediation could never satisfy.
In the meantime, a second allegation has been made and this
time anxiousperhaps too anxious to have a quick determination
of guilt or innocencethe Prime Minister, through his
Attorney General, passes the allegations over to the Director
of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police, ignoring
the process determined by the Constitution to investigate
alleged misbehaviour of a Chief Justice.
In this second allegation, another major mistake was made
by the Prime Minister in offering to give immunity to the
CJ if he chose to leave quietly. Where is the constitutional
power to back such an offer? And making the offer opens the
PM to the charge of wanting to ease the CJ out of office.
In the circumstances the population needs to know if those
making the allegations against the head of the judiciary are
diabolical and need to be themselves charged with criminal
offences or if Mr Sharma cannot be allowed to continue his
stewardship of this most vital institution.
If the mediation process was not allowed to get in the way,
CJ Sharmas right to seek judicial ruling could have
been well on the way to being decided.
Incidentally, it goes almost without saying that its
the right of the CJ to seek a court ruling on whether he should
face the tribunal. A Chief Justice cannot be left open to
being removed, even if temporarily, simply on the basis of
an allegation, more so one made by a politician.
But perhaps the society was meant to see the serious deficiencies
in our institutions through this dangerous bacchanal.
It is, for instance, interesting to hear lawyers argue that
the Commissioner of Police sought merely to exploit a technicality
in laying the charge against the Chief Justice. But isnt
that what lawyers do on a daily basis, ie, seek to exploit
imprecision in the law, notwithstanding the excessively wordy
and ponderous nature of legal language?
Maybe the argument is that such reliance on technicalities
should not be an option for the State, given its coercive
powers. The fact however that there was this scramble to expand
the court order is evidence enough that it was flawed in conception
However, there must be concern about the CoPs decision
to proceed via the arrest route rather than through a summons
and so allow the CJ space and dignity either come to court
or seek a second blocking order.
It is understandable though that, not withstanding denials
on both sides, the easy accusation is that the police were
acting under political instructions to have the CJ removed
On the other side of the coin, however, and Martin Daly is
the only one amongst the lawyers not directly connected to
have articulated a balanced position, the Government cannot
pressure the judiciary into a corner. However, it cannot be
that the CJ is being perceived to have got special privileges.
The morning after, a car park attendant wanted to know of
me if he too would have the power to have a judge summoned
to prevent the police from jacking him by the back of his
pants, if they arrived at his door with a warrant for his
The Law Association as a body has failed the national community
on this one, but maybe the association only has an interest
to its members. Instead of providing impartial direction,
the narrow interests of the client and the politics of the
One of their numbers, Israel Khan, has charged too that Apan
Jhaat politics, a colourful Hindi phrase used in British Guiana
in the 1950s to mean each one to his own race,
was at play. To balance off the racial contention, a politician/lawyer
told an Indian radio station that the Government wants to
instal a PNM judge of the CCJ, an Afro, as Chief Justice.
Then there was the curious defence of a conflict of interest
charge against president of the association, Russell Martineau.
Martineau said that notwithstanding the fact that he is lawyer
to the CJ, he felt comfortable to chair the meeting that sought
to decide on whether or not to have the AG face charges of
contempt of court because it was a unanimous decision of the
There is another well-established way of proceeding in such
matters: declare your self-interest, leave the chair and even
And while saying he is not appearing for the CJ in the second
matter, a statement from the judiciary says it was he, Martineau,
who made the calls to Justice Jones on the evening of the
attempted arrest on the criminal charges.
A few media houses too have come down on one side or the other,
providing their audiences with contaminated reports and in
a couple instances palpably biased opinions obscenely stated
on the electronic media. However, the Newsday did provide
a challenge to the right to privacy argument with the right-to-know
tenet and in so doing instigated further information.
Ultimately, the courts and tribunal must disentangle this
mess. And judgment cannot be allowed to hang interminably
with such senior state and political officials involved.