Express Editorial : Daily

THE response by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard SC to the public chastising of his office by Chief Justice Ivor Archie is a model of sober and reasoned argument that the CJ would do well to emulate.

Notwithstanding the distastefulness of the public sparring between such exalted office-holders, we agree with DPP Gaspard that the “public ringing of certain alarm bells cannot be properly addressed privately”. With the Chief Justice having gone public in singling out the Office of the DPP for blame for the backlog of criminal cases, it was incumbent on DPP Gaspard to respond. He has done so in some detail and, in the process, sent the ball back into the Chief Justice’s court.

The DPP cited four reasons for the very low number of 12 indictments filed by his office over the last law term: perennial shortage of legal and support staff; impact of the Covid-19 work regime; the judiciary’s reneging on an agreement to accept approximately 450 non-electronic committals and related indictments with transcripts from his office; and a lack of space at the DPP’s office to safely accommodate staff, equipment and bulk filing.

Surely, as chairman of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) which has ultimate responsibility for the administration of justice, Chief Justice Archie would have been aware of these inhibiting factors on the DPP’s office when he delivered his broadside against it. It is, for example, the responsibility of the JLSC and not the DPP to fill vacancies at the Criminal High Court created by the JLSC’s promotion of several judges to the Appeal Court.

While the Chief Justice may have been under some pressure to account for his stewardship as is expected at the opening of a new law term, passing the buck down the line does not help his case.

Now that the DPP has responded, we hope the CJ will not be tempted to further damage the judiciary by escalating their differences into a public row. This will only erode the little fragment of respect and trust the public has in this important but badly-damaged institution.

It is, however, difficult to escape the conclusion that these two senior office-holders are not on speaking terms. If they were, these matters would have been resolved behind closed doors and the justice system would be not spilling its guts in full public view.

If there is value in the public exposure of friction it is that it opens yet another window into the worrying state of affairs at the very top of the justice system to reveal additional reason for alarm over Archie’s tenure as Chief Justice.

This newspaper is on record for calling for the resignation of CJ Archie and, failing that, for the Prime Minister to exercise his constitutional power to establish an independent tribunal into the conduct of the Chief Justice in several personal matters that bear on his office. In his steadfast refusal to act, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has dismissed such calls as “kangatang”. In the absence of action, this latest development demonstrates what happens when the rot begins to set in.

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

I wrote recently about the startling decision of the Government to reject the offer of Patriotic Energies and Technologies Ltd (Patriotic) to acquire the Petrotrin oil refinery, which the Government closed down.

When the titular head of the Ministry of Energy, Senator Franklin Khan, announced the sudden rejection, he gave no reason for it other than to identify three broad business heads in respect of which there were allegedly problems.

The country was left confused because the Government had chosen Patriotic as the preferred bidder, and had wanted the deal completed before the August general election.

The collapse of the Anti-Gang (Amendment) Bill, 2020, seeking to extend the Anti-Gang Act 2018 for another 30 months was not unexpected.

In contrast to March 2018 when the Government laid the ­initial bill, Friday’s parliamentary debate attracted little interest from the public whose outrage had been decisive in pushing the Opposition United National Congress into giving the required special three-fifths’ support needed for its passage.

In an interdependent world, even the “indispensable” United States cannot stand alone.

Last week, I focused on the need for president-elect Joe Biden to renew America’s transatlantic ties with Europe—the foundation of Western prosperity and stability since 1945—damaged by Donald Trump’s short-sighted “America First” policy. Biden must also urgently attend to Asia, where the US lost considerable ground in the last four years.

There is a notion that Trinis are a happy-go-lucky people—a description that may be more applicable to African-descended people than to members of other groups of the population.

Such a description may be more illustrative of those of us whose world view has been influenced by African religions and philosophies as put forth by John Mbiti in African Religion and Philosophy, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, or Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities.

AFTER 58 years of leadership in both parliamentary and mayoral elections, and 16 or 17 development plans, it has been decreed that the city of Port of Spain will finally be transformed into a shiny new metropolis in North Trinidad. It is a welcomed announcement but like other similar declarations, some of us will adopt a wait-and-see attitude as the plans unfold.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has received a revelation of the state of Port of Spain and the growing homeless situation that exists.

Now, this has been happening for decades—having to be careful of how you walk if visiting the capital, not to step on someone sleeping on the pavement, or other stuff that may be there.