Friday 14th July, 2006

 

Wesley George

 
 
 
 
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No winners

The refusal of Satnarine Sharma to resign as Chief Justice has only had the effect of positioning both himself and the nation in an lose-lose situation.

The series of unfortunate events that has transpired has only had the effect of damaging the public’s confidence in the judiciary, tarnishing the Chief Justice’s image and making T&T the topic of concern among lawyers and Caribbean leaders.

This is indeed ground-breaking and the only positive aspect of this whole scenario is that we are once more given an opportunity to show how mature we are as a nation. The bottom line is, though, he should have resigned as others have suggested.

The judiciary

Public confidence in the judiciary has certainly decreased as a result of this stalemate between the State and the CJ. The Chief Justice has been claiming that the Executive, ie the Government, is directly interfering with the judicial process. For the life of me I just cannot identify exactly where the interference by the Government would have taken place.

However, it was the CJ who filed an injunction to prevent the Prime Minister from advising the President to set up a tribunal to investigate the claims of misbehaviour in public office made against him.

It was the CJ who made history by being the first person in T&T to get a court order preventing all members of the police service and auxiliary service from issuing a warrant for his arrest. The amazing point is this was achieved without the State being represented at the sittings.

The fallout of this is that we now have members of the legal fraternity throwing words at each other in the public domain over this issue.

Another situation that has arisen is that now the average citizen is educated about the fact that they have the option of filing an injunction to prevent any member of the police service from arresting them. I am sure we are going to hear a lot of this in the near future.

These moves by the Chief Justice may have won him a few battles, but they have come at the heavy price of reinforcing the public’s opinion that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor.

The CJ’s image

The CJ’s public image has no doubt taken a beating as a result of this impasse. Whether he is proven to be right or wrong, the strain of being at the centre of all this confusion must be overwhelming and it would be surprising if he is not affect by it all.

He has already had to deal with one impeachment procedure delayed, two allegations of interference with justice, three legal functionaries suggesting improper behaviour by him, and four injunctions granted or amended.

Attempting to look at the situation from the CJ’s point of view, that the Executive via Mr Manning was attacking the judiciary through the Chief Justice, does not explain the actions of several of the CJ’s colleagues over the pass few weeks.

The Chief Justice claims to be protecting the judiciary by taking this stance but how much good has come of it can be debated. One can also argue that he has mainly been on the defensive with his tactics rather than employing strategies to highlight the improprieties by the Government.

At the end of it all, even if the CJ were to come out with everything he might want with respect to his position as Chief Justice, it is unlikely he will emerge unscathed.

No real winner

The CJ’s decision not to resign has only created a situation where there would be no real winner when the dust clears. If the State is successful in laying charges against him, then the integrity of the judiciary would be compromised as a result.

However, if the CJ is successful in his bid to avoid begin investigated and even impeached, then the State would be viewed as trying to influence and even attack our independent judicial system. This may result in the ruling party going into the next election with an unwanted cloud over its head.

This is indeed a defining time in our country’s history and as I would have stated in previous articles, we must deal with this and the many other challenges with the maturity of a developed nation.

Wesley George is the education officer of the PNM National Youth League

Contact NYL with comments at [email protected] or editorial committee, National Youth League, Balisier House, #1 Tranquillity St, Port-of-Spain

 

 

 

 

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