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Columnist ‘jesting’ over my oppression

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Fellow Countrymen,

In reviewing public discourse over the present political climate, I have been reading the opinions expressed in the media, in order to find some common perspective which could end my anxiety and which also would unite the wide and varying views of Vincentians as a single, acceptable resolution. I have to admit my disappointment with this experiment, as I found too few letters or opinions to sample; except to mention three such publications.{{more}} At this point, I refer to Jomo Thomas’ ‘Plain Talk’ in The Vincentian, published February 4, and the Monday, February 7, ‘The Law and You’ by Parnell Campbell, QC.

Parnell Campbell’s programme was, as expected, factual, detailed and somewhat academic, save to say that, I learned that (1) there were other sections of the RPA which he considered equally in need of review, in addition to those previously focused upon by the amendments passed, and (2) all of these sections were recommended to both Government and Opposition, during the Constitutional Review conducted years prior. I have to admit, I was at a loss for some form of conclusive direction offered to listeners in regard to the current unrest. I may have missed it, by not hearing his previous presentation. Perhaps he was awaiting the outcomes from the deliberations of the Select Committee, as per the latest recommendation of the Prime Minister. But I did feel like the QC was deliberately holding something back, as if he knew something that I did not or could never know.

Much of my lingering suspicions were, however, extinguished by two advertorials sponsored by Frank E. Dasilva in the February 7, Mid-week edition of SEARCHLIGHT. These two advertorials placed the current political climate into a context with unimaginable historical (1972 – 2011) irony, with James Mitchell’s unjustifiable motive for advancing the amendments passed in 1972, and by the ULP Government repeating equal and similar legal manoeuvers, in currently reversing elements of the pertinent laws the Labour Party (ULP’s predecessor) historically installed to mend.

I was, moreover, gratified that one of the advertorials provided relevant and appreciable pronouncements by Chief Justice Benjan Tetan-sie of Sierra Leone. The Chief Judge was in support of the plaintiff, Mr. Akar, challenging the validity of a ruling laid against privileges provided to him and the people of Sierra Leone, under provisions in the 1961 Constitution, which were reversed by retroactive amendments made to the same constitutional provisions in 1962. If my understanding is correct, then the following quotation extended by the Chief Judge should become pertinent to both cases (in light of SVG’s and Sierra Leone’s retroactive amendments) as it speaks truth to power and provides germane perspective and direction to our current local queries. “When an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason or repugnant or impossible to be performed, the common law will control it and adjudge such an act as void.”

Moving on. In reading ‘Plain Talk’, however, the column provided much fact and information. Even more so, the genuine opinions expressed translated to me that the columnist held enormous interest in informing and educating Vincentians. Yet, I was left with a few questions. I will try to contextualize them below:

The columnist stated that political elites, Mitchell, Gonsalves, and dictators, will find it, however, possible to remove loopholes in the law which provides opportunity for opponents to challenge political power. However, the columnist does not see how dotish Vincentians could find it imaginable, to consider that these amendments and revisions are (1) unnecessary as they result in no added advantages to the DDP’s role or authority; (2) that adversely, they create constraints for the dispossessed (the already poor and politically disconnected) by diminishing limited legal access and privileges described as ones inaccessible to ordinary Vincentians; and (3) that retroactively unfix laws (not loopholes) so as to reward lawmakers in securing self-serving ends;… that such laws are an affront to Vincentians. In other words, political leaders, even dictators, reserve the right to preempt challenges against them; but ordinary Vincentians must discount their rights to preempt the unnecessary misuse of power against them by Governments, dictators, even be. The article totally lost me here.

The columnist supported the justification for his view, by stating that (1) even before the amendments were passed, if ordinary Vincentians truly had access to private criminal complaints, then perhaps hundreds of Vincentians will have brought hundreds of police officers before the courts for assault and wounding. (2) That such privileges (bringing private criminal complaints) represented a tool exclusively used by privileged and politically connected Vincentians. Such privileges (not one) were available to ordinary citizens. So, the columnist justifiably defended the new laws which now require, not just the simple appeal to process private criminal matters, but rather, only with the DPP’s authority (a Fiat), before one can dream of initiating such. (3) The columnist was aware that the recourse of legal review will now become further inaccessible to ordinary Vincentians who are unable to afford the legal costs required to proceed. So, once again, in coming to the defense of these amendments the columnist disappointed me. Not just the powerful and dictators had rights; reservation of these privileges must now be designed to provide such privileges only for the wealthy and the politically connected. How shameful the status of democracy has now become in this country.

With the justifications promoted, it therefore makes suspect the ultimate ambitions of the columnists. Should ordinary Vincentians afford this columnist any merited consideration becoming politically ambitious or connected? Logically, I don’t see how so. As an ordinary (unschooled) Vincentian, I feel that the columnist is truly ‘Jesting Over My Oppression’. Vincentians be watchful, and continue resolutely protecting your rights and those of all other ordinary Vincentians.