In spite of the fact that I am very disappointed that Ivor Archie continues to preside as Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago with very serious and scandalous allegations of misconduct still hanging over his head, I have reluctantly accepted a formal invitation by his protocol office to attend the ceremonial opening of the 2019-2020 law term in order to hear what the learned Chief Justice will tell citizens regarding his unprecedentedly stormy stewardship of the Judiciary for the past year(s).

I had initially declined the invitation to attend this important event but on sober and mature reflection I have decided not to boycott the Judiciary because, whether I like it or not, I must accept the fact that Ivor Archie is still the Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago and I, being a senior member of the legal profession (and an officer of the court), must lead by example and thus respect, not so much the man Ivor Archie, but the Office of the Chief Justice in spite of my personal disapproval of his stewardship and dissatisfaction over the fact that he has not been exonerated from the serious allegations of misconduct made against him.

Thus I refuse to cut my nose to spite my face in this brazen bacchanal involving Chief Justice Archie. I am a strong supporter of the Judiciary and I will continue to do so.

I am hoping against hope that when the Chief Justice addresses the nation via his ceremonial speech at the opening of the law term he will announce his resignation and save the Judiciary and the country from further polarisation of the kind reflected in this week’s Nigel Henry poll published in the Express.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley has added fuel to polarisation on the Archie issue. He indicated that as far as he is concerned there is a sinister plot by “some people” to get rid of the Chief Justice because these people believe that the Judiciary is available for their use and purpose.

Shortly after making the conspiracy allegation about some people trying to remove the Chief Justice, Prime Minister Rowley, at a political meeting, stated that the Law Association (LATT) is the handmaid of the United National Congress (UNC) which wants the Chief Justice out of office; and LATT is doing the bidding of the UNC and is thus pressing for his removal from office.

It is now history that the Prime Minister procured a legal opinion which stated that the allegations of misconduct of the Chief Justice are not serious enough to warrant his removal from office and that the evidence against him is weak.

Thus the Prime Minister has decided that he is not going to trigger the processing of a Section 137 tribunal.

The Law Association is yet to decide whether judicial review proceedings should be filed against the Prime Minister’s refusal to trigger a Section 137 tribunal.

It is an open secret that the Chief Justice is not speaking to quite a few judges. Many judges believe that all is not well with the Judiciary and three judges of the Court of Appeal delivered a judgment against the Chief Justice, all stating that the allegations against him are very serious and if he is not exonerated irreparable harm would be done to the Judiciary.

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And in spite of this mess the Chief Justice is exercising his right to remain silent because the law holds that he is presumed to be innocent of the common law criminal offence of misbehaviour in public office and he remains Chief Justice so long as a Section 137 tribunal does not recommend his removal for misconduct.

In light of the forgoing comments I expect the Chief Justice to say something on the issue of the allegations of misconduct made against him when he delivers his address at the opening of the law term.

Meanwhile I expect all the judges and lawyers in our beloved country to support the Judiciary by attending the ceremonial opening of the law term: The Judiciary is a sacred institution and the guardian of our constitution and democracy. It must not be brought into disrepute.

— Israel B Rajah-Khan SC is an attorney-at-law

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