Where to - the executive, judiciary or CCJ- in T&T?
During the past two weeks, as I look and listened at the massacre and rhetorical
shameful excuses - coming from Israel and Lebanon - as the former killed hundreds and devastated everything in sight in the
latter - I could not resist making comparisons with our lifestyle in the Region.
While I shared, from a distance, the
grief of the many thousands who were fleeing their homeland maybe for the last time - I also felt that we in the Caribbean
are very, very, fortunate, to be living in peaceful surroundings by comparison - while at the same time not being subject
to the extremities and fanaticisms that obtain in the Middle East.
And then the continuing “Executive versus Judiciary”
madness in Trinidad and Tobago, suddenly flared up on the Air waves and in the press - involving the Chief Justice and the
DPP and Attorney General. And I somehow felt that we in these parts were not so safe, after all, nor so far away from the
destruction and condemnation of the solid and once dependable systems, and the respect we had for the Rule of Law and Civil
liberties we inherited from good old England.
Some may find the comparison extreme, or dis-proportionate, because the
violence and barbarism and Military advantage have been the order of the years between Jews and Palestinians/Arabs for decades.
Although it has become much worse, and far more extreme since the demise of the Soviet Union as a Super Power - and Israel
now have the absolute services and protection of the only Super Power in these time, viz. the U.S.A.
But I will persist
with the argument, that because we have been enjoying our freedoms and relative peace and comfortable existence in these parts
for so long - we have become so complacent, that we have lost the deep-rooted inner feelings, to recognise or envisage the
lurking dangers hovering above and all around us, that are seriously threatening those freedoms, and peace, and comfort we
take for granted.
But as we are entering a new era of changes and systems, some forced upon us and others simply un-avoidable
in these times, we are obliged to wake up and come face to face with the reality that is already on our doorsteps.
that reality is most conspicuous in Trinidad and Tobago, and carries with it an even more alarming and treacherous state of
affairs - in the shape and mould of discrimination that is clearly grounded in racial preferences.
It may be seen as pure
coincidence, that the case for Constitutional redress - brought by the Maha Sabha religious Community of Trinidadian Indians
- was decided by the Privy Council in London and the decision handed down in early July.
And that was happening at the
same time, that the PNM Government of Hon. Patrick Manning was hell bent on ignoring an Order of the High Court in Port-of-Spain,
and threatening to arrest the Chief Justice, Hon. Satnarine Sharma, for an alleged Criminal Charge.
is needed, the PNM is a Negro majority Party and the Chief Justice is Indian.
As is also well known, this is not the first
attempt to get rid of Chief Justice Sharma, by Prime Minister Manning and his PNM Government.
The Maha Sabha case started
since 1999/2000 when the Indian body applied for a Licence to operate a Radio Station in Trinidad and Tobago. The application
was approved by the official responsible for so doing and then passed to the Government Ministry for the Minister’s
granting of the Licence, or the refusal thereof on reasonable grounds.
Soon after the application was approved and passed
to the Minister, there was a political stalemate in Trinidad and Tobago when the PNM and the UNC of Basdeo Pandy won 18 seats
each in the House of Parliament. But the President of the day, Mr. ANR Robinson, appointed Prime Minister Manning to head
And once the new Minister of the PNM took charge, the approved application of the Maha Sabha went missing.
During the next two years, between incoming Public Servants and the Ministry there was all sorts of bungling in connection
with the application, so no Licence was issued.
During the same period, however, another Company headed by a PNM supporter
and financier - having applied for a similar Licence many months after the Maha Sabha - by the name of Citadel Limited was
awarded a Licence to broadcast.
By then the PNM was firmly in control, having won a small majority in a subsequent Election.
The Maha Sabha took the matter to Court and a Judge ruled that the Religious body was discriminated against and was entitled
to obtain a Licence. The Minister Appealed to the Court of Appeal in Trinidad and Tobago, and the Court of Appeal upheld the
first Judge’s finding - but sent back the matter for the Cabinet or Minister to reconsider the application.
to say Cabinet refused the application so the Religious body Petitioned the Privy Council in London.
And the Privy Council
described the PNM behaviour as “Arbitrary and Capricious,”and Ordered the Attorney General to issue the Licence
within Forty-eight (48) hours; and so justice was done after nearly Six years.
What is significant about the case, in
my view, is not the victory as such - but the fact that although the High Court and Court of Appeal found the Maha Sabha to
have been discriminated against, those Courts stopped short of ordering the Government to award the Licence. And it was therefore
left to the Privy Council to push the Judicial reality to its obvious conclusion.
And that is another of the reasons,
many, like myself, hold unto the fears, or mis-givings, that we are not yet ready in these parts to take on the mantle of
a Final Appellate Court for the Region.
Our Judges know the Law, they can see clearly the infringements and breaches by
the powers-that-be, they also know the remedy - but they seem always to stop short of applying the fullest solutions, and
thereby leaving it to the outside Tribunal to say it and apply it as they should have done.
Maybe it is our small sizes,
the closeness of the Society, the fear of being castigated by our Tin-god politicians and their hangers-on; and by extension
the thought of not finding favour with those in control of powers, and what that could mean for their relatives and close
friends - when the latter need some favour from those in authority.
And even when the local Judiciary lay down the
law as they know it is - but refrain from applying the remedy - they maybe taking comfort from the very factual situation,
that the Final Appellate Court in London is under no such fears or obligations, and therefore justice will eventually be seen
to be done.
But be all the foregoing as they may - since we must one day cut our legal navel strings from the Mother land,
and stand on our own sovereign feet - we have to find ways to get our immature Politicians to grow up and grow out of their
petty and disgraceful attitude towards the judiciary - when the latter determine matters that go against their arbitrary and
And just about the same time that the Privy Council was deciding that the PNM Government had breached
the Maha Sabha’s Constitutional rights to Freedom of expression, and had discriminated against the Indian Religious
body - the heat was rising to intolerable levels, in the said PNM’s open-ended policy to get rid of the Indian Chief
Justice, Hon. Satnarine Sharma.
The Statements coming from the Police Commissioner, the DPP’s department, and the
Attorney General - all point clearly to an orchestrated scheme to achieve the political objective.
The Attorney was on
the national air waves making statements like .... “the Chief Justice is above the Law,” and “since the
Police had a Criminal Charge against the Chief Justice, he should resign or demit Office - instead he is still presiding over
the Judiciary.” And with no semblance of shame, the Minister for National Security was saying that there is no political
interference in the “get rid of the Chief Justice saga - it is all grounded in the rule of law.”
But all of
Trinidad and Tobago and the whole Region know - that the Prime Minister Patrick Manning had summoned the Chief Justice to
his Office, when the news or allegation from Magistrate Mc Nicols was first disclosed, and the Chief Justice was given the
option by Prime Minister Manning - “to demit office or resign, - or else face Criminal Charges.”
So what is
that - an invitation to a Sunday School class, by Ecumenical denominations wishing to unite the Religious races in multi-racial
Trinidad and Tobago?
And when the Commissioner of Police, in gross defiance of a Judge of the High Court Order - that
no charges can be laid against the Chief Justice, until the High Court has determined the Judicial review matter brought by
the Chief Justice - and in contempt of Court sent officers to arrest the Chief Justice at his home.
Was the Commissioner
also rejecting the advice of the deputy DPP, all on his own deliberate judgment - without obvious instructions and directions
from the Prime Minister and or the Attorney General?
Come on guys - give us a break!!!
Whether, or not, the Chief
Justice did approach the DPP and the Attorney General, in the Dr. Nayaransingh Murder case, as was alleged by the Prime Minister
when he advised the President to commence impeachment proceedings; or the Chief Justice did, or did not speak with Magistrate
Mc Nicols about the Basdeo Panday case, for breach of the Integrity Act that he has now been convicted for.
of the political arm under the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution leaves a whole lot to be desired, it smells of deep-seated
fermenting political impropriety, that is loaded with the evils of discrimination.
But for the rest of the CSM(E) Region,
and in particular the CCJ aspect as it applies to the Final Appellate Jurisdiction of that Court - the happenings in Trinidad
and Tobago, and the treatment of the Judiciary, and especially the Chief Justice thereof, should give us all very serious
legal food for thought.
Trinidad and Tobago houses the headquarters of the CCJ; Trinidad and Tobago is the biggest
provider of funding for the Court; and the President of the Court, under the Treaty, can only be appointed by the Prime Ministers
of the CSME States. In all the prevailing circumstances, and the disturbing happenings, in my view, our far less Independent
mini-States and their people who can see the writing on the wall - they should be thinking deeply and reconsidering their
options about the CCJ.
Because the criticism, that we are not yet ready for the final plunge into a local Court of last
resort - embodies all the above and much more.
When you know what you have, you can see the benefits from what you have,
and when you feel secure and appreciate what you have; while you cannot tell in advance, what you will be getting to replace
what you have - but you can see disturbing signs, and hear alarming sounds coming from the very seat of control of the replacement
structure - it must be more prudent to err on the side of caution, and rely on the old adage, that “a bird in hand,
is far more valuable than dozens in the bush.”
And while the Trinidad and Tobago happenings are now very topical,
and more than likely - because the Regime in control sees itself as entrenched in power for some time to come, on account
of the chaotic state of the opposition’s own power struggles - it feels it is untouchable.
We must remember that
the bad treatment of the Judiciary is not confined to Trinidad and Tobago; and in our backyard in Grenada, for example, the
situation is just as bad.
So that when the Cabinet’s Legal Advisor, and the Government’s in-house Legal Supremo,
takes a Judge to Court - on behalf of himself and the Government he advises - for Bias against them. And the same Legal Advisor
openly tells the Media, that another Judge’s decision against him was also biased; and in the same Press Conference,
he tells the Region that the people of CARICOM would be doomed if their Governments (including Grenada) abolish the Privy
Council and opt for the CCJ as the Final Court of Appeal; and that Legal Advisor is still in his highly paid position of Legal
authority - the emerging picture must be very clear.
And so it is against that daunting and un-inspiring background -
that I pose the question at the top of this article to Trinidad and Tobago, even though I do not expect an answer.
by the logical inference, and the obvious extension provided by the Revised Treaty of the CSME - which brings into play the
CCJ and all that envisage - the rest of the CARICOM Region and its people, also have to answer the question before moving
Time is not on our side - and today is already very late.