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DALY BREAD: Why we’re right to challenge power—be it a Permanent Secretary, President or Chief Justice

In relation to the huge Marcia mess created by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), there is no need to explain again the critical difference between the powers vested by law to deal with errant public officials and the complementary role of public opinion.

Robust public opinion encourages accountability and, where necessary, stimulates voluntary departure from office for the sake of taking an institution out of the mud into which blunder puts it. Public opinion is a guard of the guards.

Photo: President Anthony Carmona (centre) appoints High Court judges Kevin Ramcharan (far left), Marcia Ayers-Caesar (second from left) and Avason Quinlan-Williams (far right) in April 2017.
Also in the photo is Chief Justice and JLSC chairman Ivor Archie.
Ayers-Caesar has claimed that she subsequently resigned under duress caused by the JLSC.

I have kept focus on the Marcia mess because I believe the country will pay dearly for it without full accountability for the blunder and other loose and deficient practices regarding judicial appointments that are rapidly surfacing.

Meanwhile, readers will have taken note of the flight of officials at the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) from the probing of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament (JSC) with jurisdiction to inquire into the affairs of that company.

In the case of the Chairman of EFCL, who resigned purportedly to protect his good name, one might reasonably ask what else prompted the resignation other than the matters for accountability raised in the Trinidad Express newspaper and the discomfort of facing the JSC?

Those who believe that robust public opinion is of little value because it has no legal power to remove blunderers will remain with that blind spot. But they, like the rest of us, will continue to stew in the unsavoury juice into which errant public officials place us.

It could hardly be said that the Permanent Secretary’s attempted justification of a $92,000 site visit to Tobago inspires trust and confidence that the affairs of the Ministry of Sport were in good hands. However since we, the public, have no power to remove Permanent Secretaries, must we be content to pay for more such luxury visits to Tobago?

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (left) and his then Permanent Secretary and travel agent Natasha Barrow.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

Does the public’s lack of lawful power over the office of President likewise mean that we should have hushed our mouths when the Salaries Review Commission blessed a certain housing allowance?

The public has no legal power to remove a Speaker so why did we bother to protest when Wade Mark, while Speaker of the House of Representatives, permitted Vernella Alleyne-Toppin to mount a vicious attack on Dr Rowley and what she alleged was his background?

Was former Mayor of Port-of-Spain Raymond Tim Kee a real bobolee to resign when the women of the nation demonstrated against his remarks about a female murder victim? As they had no power to remove him, should he have stayed put?

Now even while the JLSC whirlwind is still tearing at the institutional reputation of the Judiciary, another whirlwind is battering the institutional reputation of the Defence Force. Because two big Army men are each saying it wasn’t the other who was responsible for the presence of the Attorney General’s children at an Army camp—even though, as explained by my fellow columnist Raffique Shah, there might well be no harm in the visit.

If Raffique is right, and I fully respect his expertise, then there has been a wholly unnecessary fudging of a simple matter possibly to satisfy the demands of partisan politics to stick a finger in the Opposition’s eye—but at the cost of the credibility of the Defence Force.

Photo: Then National Security Minister Jack Warner (left) officially elevates Kenrick Maharaj to the post of Major General in 2013.

All these whirlwinds are of similar character. They blow in because no one will ever take responsibility, without prevarication, and account for challenged acts or omissions and seek to set things right if necessary.

A strong undercurrent of these whirlwinds is the placing of independent and trusted institutions into the service of the self-interest of others. If the source of the query is a political opponent, then both sides in our politics believe the opponent must be drowned to serve the self-interest of the impugned public official—even if truth and accountability pass in the rush.

The plain fact is that since Independence, at various times, the office of President of the Republic, Chief Justice, Speaker and other high offices have let us down. However, we assess the worth of the office holders who have let us down by obsessing over the persons who buss the mark, particularly over their race or politics, or whether some other office holder did the same thing or something similar.

This blind spot method of assessment of performance in public office has resulted in plummeting standards and unjust consequences. The bar is constantly being lowered.

Many commentators are unable to assess the issue of loss of confidence in the JLSC and its knock-on effect on the Judiciary without obsessing over some of the personalities raising the challenges, thereby evading the issue.

Photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie (centre).
(Copyright News.Gov.TT)

There will be destructive consequences for stability as the crisis of confidence deepens, as it already has in the past week, and the only responses are superficial comments made as distractions away from the reality of the problem.

AboutMartin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation, a board member of The Little Carib Theatre and Folkhouse and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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90 comments

  1. Until we change the selection process to appoint persons to these various positions, this conversation will be repeated

  2. Folks. We need to have a dispassionate discussion on issues that affect our lives. We have to find someway ( and you are going to say wishful thinking) to destroy the bogeyman of the notion of ethnic superiority . Please believe me, this vexing issue is destroying the fabric of our society.

  3. Mr. Daly What a very very convenient observation. I guess you were fast asleep for 55 years . Good Morning.

    • Agreed Neville Martin Daly was indeed Fast asleep and Could not Make Decisions about this Current Scenario of the Justice System in T&T. Tell me Something is Martin Daly Overseering the Judiciary in Our Island or is it the Chief Justice who is Paid Handsomely and Bringing the Judiciary into Disrepute and Much Controversy and Flying all over the Place. Yes Neville We are so Blinded by Politics that We Cast Blame on Aspirations and Really don’t Pay any Attention to Reality or Facts.

  4. It is time we the citizens get involved an be active participants in the selection process of President , CJ, DPP and even Boards to avoid the nepotism, patronage and in the end massive corruption. The more things change the more they remain the same. Fed up and tired with same things over and over

    • I like this idea. how about we have island wide elections for each of the major positions in government, starting with those you have listed?

    • Then it will be more politicized. Elections has lead to a dysfunctional legislature. What makes you think elections will make the public service work well?

    • We have to understand first and foremost we live in a plural society. similar to Guyana and Suriname. This mean we have almost equal number of East Indians and Africans in all three countries. Elections showcases the two ethnic groupings. Since slavery days the ‘white masters’ created animosity and hatred between the two top ethnic groups. Then in 1962 we gained Independence and prior Capildeo disagreed with the idea and at the last minute changed his minds. The first election were along ethnic lines, but the hatred was not to nasty. the PNM ruled for 30 years before lsoing to the NAR (1981), the UNC won (1995). PP(2010-2015) Fast forward to 2017 and race and politics go hand in hand. the Parliamentary system of government has also created division with the ‘Winner takes All’. meaning whoever in power see about ‘their’ people’ that is UNC see after Indians – PNM Africans. Laws or the Constitution cannot change that . We as citizens have to realize we all occupy this space call T&T . I am part of the 23% dougla, then there are mixed, Other , French creole and Chinese. we have to change our mindset. It all begins with core parenting, not teaching your kids to hate each other because of ethnicity, skin colour, hair etc. Love conquers all

    • Kwesi Prescod I know elections with political parties has not worked, because it is not supposed to. Electing people, individually, is different, and may work better.

    • explain the latter part of your statement

    • Maybe many of the public service positions that are now selected, should be elected. like the Comissioner of police, the Chief justice, the Auditor general for example, where the term is two years and the incumbent can only hold the post for 2 terms in a row. I have always said, as well, that our electoral process has to dismantle the political parties, by making each candidate prove his / her independence from corporate, political, and religious bodies.

    • UNC see after Indians – PNM Africans? Where did that happen?

    • The thing is which party in power elects its people at the helm. I will not suggest and independent body since I’m uncertain if any one is independent in this country. The elephant in the room which no one is discussing is RACE. When you talk about it people gets upset, why?
      We who are mixed (dougla, biracial, interracial) are in the centre so we see both sides. Both groups are guilty of racist overtones in their comments and behaviour, one side more than the other. Only when we see ourselves as Caribbean people and Trinbagonians we might begin to progress , since over the last 50 years we going round in circles

  5. These issues are being repeated since all the appointments are politically motivated,exam who was appointed during which party. This system has to change, its not working in the 21st century, People have been talking and talking to no avail , because (1) no political will (2) if attempts to seek change is made, its blocked by oppositions so in the end were are going nowhere. AS George Modelski said “history is cylical” meaning in T&T we going round in circles. we are static. I agree with Justin regarding public opinion which is the missing link. But who should be blamed for us not being taken seriously? , In many cases its’ an individual voice (Afra Raymond and CL Financial mess), Are citizens supporting him or any other in fight for transparency, accountabilty or justice on pertinent issues facing the country? Or disparate groups with a political agenda. Until we the the citizens unify and demand more from those in authority we will elect persons who repeat the same mistakes and laugh in our faces, knowing fully well Trinis passive and dont really outsideIf amendements are nit made 5 years later we will still be talkinhg ye we live in apartliametary system

  6. evil will continue in TT – when good people do nothing…and STAY SILENT…“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” ― Albert Einstein…

  7. Politics aside… we have people holding high office that might have technical knowledge but cannot run a “parlour”. It is time that we properly select the people to hold high office.

  8. The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing all the time and expecting different results.

  9. Martin Daly should be put out to Pasture.

    • Why Martin Daly should put out to Pasture, he is not Responsible for the Judiciary , that falls under the Purview of the Chief Justice and Do you think he should Put out to pasture for Failing Miserably?

  10. Excellent comments by the Daly Bread…he calls spade a spade…
    We put trust in high office holders…blunder after blunder throughout the decades…
    The siphoning.of our tax dollars…nobody is held accountable in terms of arrest, charge and conviction..

  11. I suppose that morality is relative. It applies to some of the time but not to all at all times. It’s a matter of convenience.

  12. Once things not working in youll favour people fail youll but if people listen to their parents youll wouldnt have this problem youll fail yourself

  13. And Martin Daly takes in front before in front takes his greedy unprincipled ass.

  14. Martin Daly as a senior legal mind should concentrate on finding ways to make the court system function more effectively; where cases are heard in a speedy manner and judgments handed down more expeditiously to erase the horrendous backlogs that exist in the system. He should look at the failing bail/bond system and woefully inadequate resources at the DPP to name a few critical areas in the judiciary..These are the issues that should be at the forefront..

    • Christian Rodriguez Why do you think that Martin Daly should Concentrate on Finding Ways To make the Court System Function More Effectively and What the F–k Martin have to do with Resources to the DPP. What the F–k the Chief Justice is Being Paid For, What to Make Appointments to Judges with Outstanding Matters Part Heard and Bringing the Judiciary into Disrepute and Controversy and Flying all over the F–king Place. Get Real Man, You are so Blind to PNM Politics that Your Comment don’t make any sense.

    • all issues should be at the forefront, because they are all pending and these high rankers are doing absolutely nothing except frustrating the process.

    • Really I agree that all Issues should be in the Forefront and Handled and Addressed Free from Political Interference and By the Way Whom/Who is Frustrating the Process Cherrise?

  15. We continue putting square pegs in round holes and surprised ant in competence

  16. This is an excellent opportunity for the CJ to fix what is broken and regain the confidence of the nation, before he thinks about resigning.

  17. They only talk LOOSELY about MORALITY and INTEGRITY.IT’S all about MONEY and POSITION.DON’T care a SH….T about the PEOPLE.

  18. After reading Marcia’s leaked letter today I give up on lawyers, oui.

  19. This column is answering a point that no one ever made- that public opinion is not important. Daly uses the term “public opinion” here instead of the “legitimacy” or “moral authority” which were the basis for his more direct call for the CJ to resign. Those terms are related but are not interchangeable. This is a different argument which is beneath a call for resignation.I think it makes a lot of sense. To me, the most important point is what the others above have said- “public opinion” has to “INFORMED public opinion.” People following the issue may have a view on what Todays express poll reveals about the “moral authority” and “legitimacy” arguments which previously were said to justify Archie’s resignation.

    • To be honest, I remember with the issue of PS Natasha Barrow, some did point to regulations regarding the almost untouchable status of Permanent Secretaries as a reason why everyone should shut up about calls for her to be fired.
      As to whether this issue is big enough for the CJ to step down, I’m not sure. I am more irked by the way he has handled the fall out. But I’m happy to listen to arguments for all sides.

  20. Trinidad and Tobago is not an independent country

  21. Yuh know what is our problem? We keep attacking people and not the actual issues at hand. Ok, even if the person was in fact the issues, what procedures would have been put in place to avoid a repeat.

    If the CJ was aware that Mrs Ayers-Caesar had 53 cases pending I don’t think we would have been having this discussion at all! What has been put in place to address that?

    How are we to address the 53 cases pending in magistrate’s court? The DPP is waiting!

    Is the JLSC properly constituted? If yes, (as recent rulings state) then explain.

    Can we look past the personalities and address the real issues at hand?

    Mr Daly just wrote a column about the merits of the public opinion, it’s my sincere hope he wrote that from his desk over at the Law Association!

    • Ironically that jab at Daly might have been echoing the same personalising of issues that you were referring to eh. I think people (not necessarily you) are tripping over themselves to find a way to make all the critics of the CJ into a single entity so if fits their own view of Trinidad and Tobago.
      You have Reginald Dumas and Martin Daly SC in one corner. You have the recently appointed Law Association president Douglas Mendes SC in another. And then you have Anand Ramlogan, Wayne Sturge and Gerald Ramdeen.
      Just because all three groups happen to agree on one thing–and only one thing–how does it make them a single entity?

    • True. But it makes you wonder at the merits of their arguments.

    • Marcia’s leaked letter today destroys the grounds for their petition if you ask me…

    • But is it not all intertwined already? Daly has been very vocal about the CJ, the SCs filed motions against the JLSC which the CJ heads. The LATT which Daly is a part of carried 5 motions against the JLSC and CJ. The SCs are part of the LATT. We are seeing the same 10 faces over and over! It’s a horse race and everybody is jockeying for position it would seem.

      My jab wasn’t at Mr Daly directly though, it was at the LATT. I took umbrage at their last statement about unsubstantiated social media posts undermining confidence in the judiciary. Very ironic to read his words above in contrast to the LATT statement.

    • Doesn’t Marcia’s leaked letter further suggest that Chief Justice and the JLSC didn’t do their jobs Rhoda?

    • Ezra because I’m a member of MATT doesn’t mean that I automatically agree with MATT’s position or that we share views. That’s the part that troubles me in what you said.
      And it should be well known that the gang of three tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the LATT recently and Daly publicly admonished them.

    • No. It doesn’t. Not from my reading. In fact, Archie asked the very person who could give details about Marcia’s case load. He asked the Chief Magistrate. Turns out the Chief Magistrate is Marcia. And she gave him a partial list. He called again, asked about a case that was missing from the list. She accounted for it and said nothing further about any other cases. She got appointed. Then when the uproar began the ag Chief Magistrate did a search and lo and behold a more comprehensive list emerges. Herself clearly didn’t give a thorough report on herself.

    • Agreed, even the motions carried by the LATT did not in fact have the backing of all the members of the LATT. I think it was only a quarter of the membership if I’m not mistaken. Yet, motions were passed and pronouncements made by the LATT! Maybe the executive of the LATT should be going over it’s own internal constitution, just maybe!

      What I’m trying to say is maybe Daly can read his column to whomever wrote their last statement concerning the public’s opinion of Judge Seepersad. ?

    • Rhoda, I see your point. But then it can also be argued that considering the Chief Magistrate’s vested interest in the Chief Magistrate’s pending promotion, that maybe the Chief Justice and Chairman of the JLSC (another case of himself on to himself) ought to have used other avenues to verify her case load.
      Not so?

    • I wonder if you’re factually correct Lasana about Dumas and Mendes SC. As LATT Pres Mendes won’t have a public view. Dumas signed a statement with Daly asking for Quinlan report- but as far as I’m aware he hasn’t publicly called for CJ to resign. You’re left with Daly SC and Sturge, Ramdeen et al

    • Perhaps so Justin. But it is still three groups. Daly/LATT/gang of three.

    • No- I’d say you would need to look at the LATT procedures before you say LATT in this case is different to the last group. If there’s a campaign one way only for a month before a meeting, and heavy mobilization also one way only, you’d expect the vote to go one way too. I think you’re really left with Daly and Sturge, Ramdeen et al

    • Correct Phelps.

      Lasana Liburd if the CM is the official he has to ask, then we want to assume the CM will do her job properly. If she doesn’t that should be grounds for dismissal. In short, if you lied to get a job, should you be allowed to keep it? And in the judiciary? As a justice of the supreme court? Given Marcia’s timeline it seems Archie trusted her to be honest and then hearing otherwise did his checks.

    • Rhoda, I think the judicial system is designed to get to the truth not to assume that the person being questioned is honest and above reproach.
      I think any CEO would not just ask the person he is promoting to appraise themselves. The CEO is duti-bound to dig deeper than for the sake of their company.
      That’s why we ask job applicants to present referals. And more than one too.

    • But the acting CM was able to come up with the actual figure of 53. What means did she use to get this figure? Can those means be made available directly to the CJ and JLSC so that there will be no ambiguity the next time around?

    • Exactly Ezra. If this is important, I’d say the CJ owes it to the judiciary and the public to do it right.

    • Lasana Liburd I agree…but then Archie would have to go to Marcia’s subordinate to have them compile a report on her, I think. And the channels are the CJ asks the CM for a report on the caseload of the magistrates. Soooooo…I dunno what to say again except, why Marcia didn’t tell the truth?

    • Those means are available to the CJ, no? She also said in her letter that a report is sent to him every month

    • Ezra Joaquim the Public Service Commission chair should have access to people’s workload records too? #askingforafriend

    • Would you be cautious dealing with a letter written by some who accepted full responsibility publicly and is now asserting something different AFTER removal and when she has a legal claim to advance? Perhaps not. “Public opinion” indeed.

    • Well, he should have exhausted all possible avenues BEFORE promoting her. “Tips play over” shouldn’t be a term used by the Chief Justice for me.

    • I agree with that Justin. Thought it curious that the Chief Magistrate didn’t think it necessary to have legal advice.

    • Worse…she says she wasn’t given permission to seek it. Permission from whom?
      If police show up to arrest me now I not asking permission to call my lawyer. I calling my lawyer. Punto finale. Her constructive dismissal argument has me confused. Can she really claim to be naive and unknowledgeable about legal matters?

    • Ahhhh, but the issue here is internal! The CJ and the JLSC was already Marcia’s boss before she was sworn in as a judge. If I’m promoting from within there is no conflict requesting your caseload! It should be done in order to ensure a smooth transition.

    • “On April 10, two days before she was set to be appointed as a High Court judge, Chief Justice Ivor Archie called her and asked her if she had any part-heard matters, Ayers-Caesar said. Ayers-Caesar said she was “surprised” by Archie’s request “as I assumed that he would know that an office holder at the level of Chief Magistrate would have part-heard matters”.

      She also said it was not a “straightforward task to respond quickly to” the amount of part-heard matters before her.

      On April 11 Ayers-Caesar said she went to the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court’s Note Taking Unit and discovered she had 28 part-heard matters there. She compiled a list and sent it to Archie.

      On April 12 she was sworn in as a High Court judge by Carmona.

      Ayers-Caesar said on April 25 she was called into a meeting with Archie where acting Chief Magistrate Maria Earle Busby-Caddle produced a list showing that she had 52 part-heard matters.

      Ayers-Caesar met with Archie the following day, April 26, and “at no point did the Chief Justice ask me any questions about the matters on the revised list of 52 cases” she said.”

    • Yeah. The fact that Marcia thought her dismissal was a done deal had nothing to do with her signing that resignation letter.
      Carmona right to be skeptical of her claim.

    • My question now is when does security of tenure begin because the drama took place before she was sworn in as a judge. So does the CJ asking for her resignation for matters not concerning her performance as a judge go against “security of tenure”?

    • Well if she lied during application process, then I’d think so.

    • Ezra Joaquim hence her challenge. She didn’t misbehave as a judge. But now she claiming constructive dismissal. I watching to see how that play out.

    • Justin, did Daly ask for the CJ to resign? I understood his narrative that he wanted accountability…not a resignation.

      Also, I find it humourous that while some persons (including Dale Enoch) this morning are calling for the CJ’s head, they seem comfortable that there be a Justice Ayers-Caesar where the one undeniable fact in this debacle is that she was less than upfront about her caseload.

    • Who is responsible for the magistracy? How come the Chief Justice doesn’t know how many cases a magistrate has? The administrative arm of the judiciary seems to be in a mess as know one knows how many cases a particular magistrate or judge has. Who is responsible for this? Me? you? Who? It seems that most think we should just shut up and maintain the status quo. No transparency and accountability by public officials and institutions must continue unabated. In 2017 the persons responsible for promotion, discipline etc of magistrates have to ask a magistrate how much cases they have. Is the criteria used for promotion to chief magistrate, seniority or favoritism since the persons responsible for the process have no idea about cases pending, completed, etc or how many decisions were overturned on appeal?

  22. And dey still doin it wit impunity..how d f$k dem da sleep?

  23. I thot the president was a real man to do the right thing but mr. President u fail us . Am shamed to call u our president ….

  24. I think many of these issues and shortcomings would be more palatable when the office holders quickly and publicly admit that they came up short and strive to do better.
    That would at least give hope that something was learned.
    I think the biggest problem most times is the arrogant approach that really is like a finger in the eye.

    • Sometimes it’s an arrogant approach. Sometimes it’s a perceived arrogant approach based on what others are saying.
      I still for example, don’t see the justification for this campaign for the CJ to resign. But if I were to take what others are saying then sure, I’d think the CJ is being arrogant and undermining the integrity of the system etc etc.
      Having said that though, the issues concerning public spending or gender based attacks for example, are the ones where I do think we get it right.

  25. We should never accept blindly whatever the powers that be do or say. Still though, there’s a difference between robust public opinion and reckless public opinion. Sometimes we (the public) get it right, other times we have tunnel vision fueled by nothing but emotion. And then we end up in a mass of bacchanal that allows no place for reason or logic.

    • Which is fine! Even our tunnel visioned emotional opinion should be addressed, albeit in a calm and rational manner, hence the judiciary. If people have concerns about forum shopping then address those concerns by demonstrating how they are unfounded and it would be put to rest. But to simply say “hahaha, no, Frank is a good boy!”, doesn’t do anything for me!

    • That’s the thing though. In this day and age of social media when information/opinions spread so rapidly, calm and rational responses do little to quell conspiracy theories. Justice Seepersad would be a good example. And it’s not his rulings that have undermined the legal system, it’s the conspiracy theories about his reasoning for ruling the way he has in a couple of matters. LATT has issued a response. No telling how much ppl believe it or how much it will just make ppl ???.

    • It’s the perception that everytime the oppostion wants an injunction it lands in his lap and he grants it! That’s the crux of the conspiracy! Now if anyone can show how many injunctions filed by opposition lawyers make it to other judges the conspiracy would be shut down. Or, how many injunctions Seepersad have not granted to opposition lawyers would work equally well. Anybody have those stats? How many if Seepersad’s granted injunctions and rulings have been struck down by appellate courts? Can we say many? Hmmmm!

      There is always some truth to conspiracy theories btw. ?

    • Yeah… only in the mind of the conspiracists.
      He ruled against the UNC when they were in power. Maybe he’s just anti-government. Maybe I should start that theory. ??

    • Ezra Joaquim, every comment on this issue you have made so far I fully endorse, my sentiments exactly, only you better at articulating them …lol

    • I’m glad to be of humble and objective service! ??

    • Chabeth…. no smoke without fire… Seepersad is to blame for this mistrust in him and his judgements…. why a video conference ? eh…. submit 22 page ruling at 2am ? pls….. then to top it off the High Court literally buff him and throw out the injunctions ? nope sorry Ezra is on the ball with this?