Last Sundays column called for restraint concerning
the drama involving the Chief Justice, the third-ranked office
in the order of national precedence.
Subsequent developments have both clouded the situation and
demonstrated that the system has the capacity to treat with
this complex situation without self-destructing.
Getting at the truth of who made the worrying phone calls
from the CJs residence to Judge Judith Jones, on 14
July, is proving to be quite elusive, but may yet be of major
First, it was alleged by Police Commissioner Trevor Paul,
that one of the calls was made by Justice of Appeal, Stanley
John, who emphatically denied it.
The CoP, however, reaffirmed his position. Then came an unsigned
statement titled The Judiciary of T&T, which
claimed that Russell Martineau, SC, one of the CJs attorneys,
and Evelyn Peterson, Registrar of the Supreme Court, were
the people making telephone calls from the CJs residence
to Justice Jones.
Neither Sharma, CJ, nor John, the statement asserted, spoke
at any time to the presiding judge.
Statements presumably intending to add clarity and give assurance
had the opposite effect of obscuring the real situation.
The CoP maintained his position, notwithstanding Johns
denial. The CJ found it expedient to authorise the issuance
of a second release from the Office of the Chief Justice,
seeking to clear up the impression that the first statement
in relation to events which took place at (the CJs)
residence on Friday, 14 July, was a collaborative agreement
of the entire judiciary.
Clearly, this could not be so, as they were not present.
The statement, which was issued, was done with the agreement
of all parties who were present at the Chief Justices
residence on Friday, 14 July.
Significantly, this second release, intending to remove the
erroneous impression created by the first, that the entire
judiciary backed the statement, left unchanged the information
that it was Martineau and Peterson who made the calls to Judge
Martineau, in a release, refuted this: I spoke to the
learned judge on a mobile phone when the Registrar telephoned
the learned judge and passed the phone to me.
Also, I agreed with the issuance of a statement on the
matter on Sunday, 23 July, but I did not have sight of the
final draft, which was issued, as I was in Tobago over the
There is a critical nuance in Martineaus clarification.
While he agreed with the issuance of a statement, he certainly
did not agree with the statement issued, noting that he did
not have sight of the final draft.
If he had, from his clarification, he certainly would have
deleted any reference to his telephoning the judge.
Who, then, is standing by the text of the two statements issued
on the instruction of the CJ?
What the denials tell us is that neither the CJ, John, nor
Martineau made any calls. Registrar Peterson has been silent,
though Martineau said she called the judge.
Did she alone make all the calls? Unearthing the truth ought
to be a priority.
The Presidents intervention and the continuation of
the judicial proceedings in the Court of Appeal are two powerful
indications of the system functioning in the manner intended.
The Presidents address was measured and sensitive. He
insisted he was determined to use, not abuse the powers vested
in him under the constitution to resolve this issue, even
as he was being forced by circumstances to navigate uncharted
While reaffirming his determination to be even-handed, not
prejudging outcomes, the President confessed how greatly troubled
he was by the events of Friday, 14 July.
After meeting with Justice Jones and the CJ, the President,
without forming a view on the matter, concluded that
the public interest required a thorough investigation forthwith.
The President sought to convey in his carefully-worded address
that he did not reach the conclusions he did whimsically,
nor was he contemplating action capriciously.
The need for action and his decision to act judiciously were
expressed in language that reflected careful deliberation:
I am faced with a set of circumstances unprecedented
in nature in which, in my deliberate judgment, urgent action
must be taken, in defence of the rule of law and the administration
of justice in the republic.
That action cannot amount to a usurpation of the principles
of due process and the rule of law. The action must be as
close as possible to express dictates of the constitution,
and above all, must reflect its spirit.
I am also of the firm view that more damage would accrue
to our beloved nation from inaction in the present
circumstances than the measured action which I propose to
And the measured action? I have, in my considered judgment,
decided that certain courses of action are immediately required
as a matter of necessity, in defence of the rule of law and
the proper administration of justice in T&T.
On this, I am taking the benefit of advice.
Clearly, the President was sending a subtle message. Within
24 hours of his address, the CJ reacted. He decided to cease
exercising his judicial function as CJ until resolution of
the matters, limiting his function to the purely administrative.
Was this adequate, given the unprecedented circumstances?
Obviously not, since the Presidents appointment, last
Friday, of Justice Roger Hamel-Smith to act as CJ until Sharmas
issues have been resolved.
Pandays self-interested attempt to exploit politically
the impasse involving the CJ should be noted. At the airport,
after an extended absence, he attempted to stoke disaffection
over this issue.
In vitriolic language, he described it as reeking of racism
and irresponsibly called for confrontation. Subsequently,
he offensively described the Presidents speech as a
shame and a disgrace.
But Panday is not a disinterested observer, as the population
well knows. His contemptible attempt to attribute mala fides
to those professionally discharging their responsibilities
to the constitution and the law will not escape it.
Is party unity the only thing he wants to achieve before
riding out into the sunset?
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