6 Aug 2008

Judicial and other emasculation coming

I am not sure what Pa-trick wants to be - a dictator or an executive president. He is certainly dictatorial in his journey towards an executive presidency.

Reports are that he wants to further emasculate the opposition (as if it isn't doing well enough on its own) by reducing (proportionately) the number of members in the senate.

Instead, at yesterday's meeting the round table agreed on a proposal which would effectively reduce the power of the Opposition party in the Senate.

The proposal would increase the number of Government senators by three, from 16 to 19. Yet, it would only increase the number of Opposition senators by one, upping it from six to seven. At the same time, the number of Independent senators would be increased by two, with these two senators to be recommended for appointment by the Tobago House of Assembly.

Currently, there are 31 senators. The proposal agreed upon by the round table would up that number to 37, while at the same time reducing the weight of the Opposition presence in the Senate.

I am also wondering at the secretive way Pa-trick is going about the judicial reform... something's not kosher as the saying goes.

According to Manning, this working document proposes the stripping of the Judiciary's administrative functions which would go to a Ministry of Justice, a proposal which has been severely criticised by Law Association President Martin Daly SC as "backwards".

If there is to be judicial reform, won't it be better to get input from the entire legal fraternity, such as the Criminal Bar Association, the Law Association and others? Instead we have a sort of three way discussion which is fed back to Pa-trick's round table members. All done in the most underhanded way.

Newsday has learnt that Manning has had at least two meetings with the CJ over the issue. He has also indicated that he intends to have further discussions with the head of the Judiciary.

The focus of discussions between the Prime Minister and the CJ has surrounded how the Ministry of Justice will work. In particular it has included the possibility of a central figure in that ministry who will function as a permanent secretary and work in close collaboration with the sitting Chief Justice. However, this permanent secretary, like all permanent secretaries, will remain ultimately responsible to a minister. Last month Manning had also announced several proposals for changes to the legal system. He called for the financing of the Judiciary to be reviewed and for a reduction in the independence of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

In a press release issued last Saturday by the Judiciary’s communications unit, the body confirmed that the AG and the CJ have been in talks over the ongoing process of constitutional reform.

The release said the CJ and AG “held a singular meeting recently” alongside two members of a sub-committee appointed by Government.

However, no mention was made in Saturday’s press release of the CJ’s behind-the-scenes consultations with the Prime Minister who is himself supervising the drafting of a working document which is to be used as the basis for constitutional reform.

It all suggests that there is more than smoke and mirrors here. To me it signals an erosion in law that may be hard to recover from in the near future. I expected a lot more protests, but again, I always say that most of these lawyers know which side their bread is buttered. Even the so-called independents are merely gaudy dressings... like the linoleum that people placed on their table tops long ago, for show (to hide the flaws underneath).

There is a lot more coming, and those who are too blind to see... well, dey goh feel!