The continuing saga of Cornelius John, the phantom and crew
I must admit not being a close follower of court matters, but I am a voracious reader of suspense novels, detective stories and court dramas from authors such as PD James, John Grisham, Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci and have recently read Stacey Abram’s classic New York best seller, “While Justice Sleeps”. What is happening here would certainly have brought out the best in them. Over the past weeks the public queried the delay in pressing charges. There was a strong view that Miss Morgan, Deputy Speaker, should not attend meetings of the House of Assembly until her matter was resolved.
After a long period of silence by the authorities things began to happen, no doubt forced by public pressure. Charges were laid last weekend. These had their own elements of mystery. Then last Monday, Morgan sought leave of absence from the Speaker of the House.
A release from her raised many eyebrows in what it said about how those holding public offices view their responsibilities. She was seeking a month’s leave of absence “in the first instance” from the sitting of the House in view of the upcoming trial. Why a month’s leave rather than until the court matter was complete? There was no ‘legal or moral’ obligation, she felt, for her to take such leave, but she was doing so ‘voluntarily’ to avoid distracting from or overshadowing the business of the House of Assembly. No moral obligation to take leave from the House! This speaks volumes! Is it that persons holding ‘public office’ only have a legal responsibility? An obligation has to do with a sense of duty and is far more than a legal responsibility.
Quite often when issues such as these arise, we tend to look to the constitution to try to show that such action does not contravene it. Our constitution came from Britain but minus the conventions, mores and values which are ‘universally’ observed, though not legally enforceable. The Standing Orders of our House of Assembly (unless it has been changed) under the section ‘Practice of Parliament’ states that in cases of doubt the Orders shall be interpreted in light of the relevant practice of the British House of Commons and adds too, that “In any matter for which these Standing Orders do not provide, the same practice shall be followed”. In England, this matter would not have involved any debate about legality, the conventions and practices would have come to play. In the recent case involving Matt Hancock, the British Health Secretary, members of the House called on him immediately to resign, which he did understanding the power of their conventions. It would certainly not have crossed his mind to argue that he had no moral obligation to do so.
Then another stunning development. John had, according to his attorney, attempted on occasions to get his medical records without success. After word got out that his record was missing, we were told by the hospital administrator, I believe, that she had them in her possession. His lawyer then wrote on his behalf requesting the records. He was finally given them but with some surprises. First, they had been signed out by someone from the DPP’s office, without his consent. It indicated that he made no mention of a woman being among the party that visited his home, but we know that he had consistently stated that the group against whom he levelled charges included a woman and two men, the woman he knew because she lived in his area. Then there was some reference to him having been ‘drinking’, which he apparently does not.
This matter is being played out like a soap opera. We just have to stay tuned to see the next twist. In the meantime, Mr John, is still nursing his wound. He needs the nation’s full support because he is alarmed and confused by what is at present being played out. It could have been any of us. So, we have to take warning!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian