Just two Sundays ago, I discussed the inability of our public officials to beg our pardon when they blunder. They show contempt for our intelligence and our own experience when they spin improbable explanations for obvious blundering.
The Government has had a very bad fortnight of blunders and ‘no beg-pardons.’ The so-called explanations for these blunders have insulted our intelligence. The Attorney General is not at the top of the blogs and memes; that place belonged to Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister of Tourism, now overtaken by Darryl Smith, Minister of Sport.
However, the Attorney General’s unqualified announcement—at a time when a notice of appeal had not yet been filed—of a date and time for the hearing of an appeal by the State against a stay of property tax activities was dropped on us at a particularly bad time.
It was a bad time because the blundering of the JLSC in the recent round of appointments to the High Court bench had already undermined the institutional reputation of the Judiciary. And the inevitable but shameful restart of the part-heard cases before the former Chief Magistrate was announced, without apology, on Thursday last.
The Attorney General’s improper announcement triggered new and unseemly questions about the operations of the Judiciary. That additional comess was not the fault of the Judiciary or fall-out from the we-can-do-no-wrong JLSC.
I don’t know what response the Registrar of the Supreme Court will give to the inquiries made of her by Anand Ramlogan SC, acting on behalf of the Claimant, challenging the property tax. What was likely is this: the lawyers acting on behalf of the State would have indicated to the Registry that they would be filing an appeal, wanted an urgent hearing and the Registrar may have indicated a tentative date.
That tentative date would have been subject to the prompt filing of the Notice of Appeal.
The proper thing for the Attorney General to do would have been to inform the public that the State was intending to appeal the decision delivered on Friday 19 May and was hoping to get as early a date as the following Monday 22 May.
Any announcement about the State’s Appeal should have been limited to an expression of an intention to appeal and of the hope of an expedited hearing.
I do not believe that the Attorney General’s unfortunate announcement is evidence of collusion between the Political Executive and the Judiciary. It was a petulant “going to do you back” taunt—characteristic of the immature way in which our politics is practised.
Uncharacteristically for someone of her technology-literate generation, Minister Shamfa Cudjoe seemed unaware that everyone who travels abroad puts their phone on airplane mode and receives email and data by means of Wi-Fi, which is available even in every little one-door parlour or bar all over the world.
There was absolutely no hope of rationalising a TT$59,000.00 phone bill to a population under economic pressure. Minister Darryl Smith has the same problem with the TT$90,000.00 trip to Tobago.
We must be thankful for small mercies in that neither of these ministers hinted that the juicy expenses, for which they were responsible, were the result of possible sabotage. That incredible, desperate lamentation was part of the hand wringing of Minister Rohan Sinanan, Minister of Transport, over the failure of the sea-bridge to Tobago.
The lame excuses made by these fourb ministers are insults to the intelligence of the population.
Legend has it that one of the Roman Emperors, Caligula, had no respect for the Roman Senate. To demonstrate his lack of respect, he made his favourite horse, Incitatus, a senator.
The appointment of Senator Incitatus might not have been the worst insult to the Roman Senate—if only because “horse sense” is a phrase applied to sound practical judgment, which is in short supply at the moment.
Senator Incitatus therefore might have made better sense of the appointment of judges, phone and travel expenses, the filing of appeals and the poor maintenance of the sea-bridge vessels, than our persistently wrong-and-strong grappe of public officials.
I return now to the failure of the JLSC to release the report of the tribunal that heard the misconduct charges against the magistrate, who is now newly appointed Justice Quinlan-Williams. My dear colleague, Keith Scotland, in attempting to defend the secrecy in which the report is being held, got his Public Service Regulations in a muddle.
Regulation 109, to which he referred, deals with holding of the proceedings in private; a separate regulation, 102, deals with the report. Reference to 109 is irrelevant. Keith gave us a ‘9 for a 2.’
In my view, the Commission is not restricted by the terms of 102, which is the relevant regulation, especially given the public interest considerations that have arisen now that the transcript of the disciplinary proceedings is widely available in the public domain.