1 Mar 2019

Liquid paper President

If the Newsday is correct in reporting [Newsday 28/02/2019] that President Weekes “is proposing to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) to revoke the appointment of Appeal Court judge Charmaine Pemberton” and “re-appointed under the correct provision: section 110(3) (a)”, one can only wonder whether the President thinks that this is sufficient to correct the constitutional chaos caused by the appointment.

It seems that the President is glossing over the fact that Justice Pemberton was illegally appointed, and took part in decision-making during this time, decisions which in themselves would be illegal if she formed part of the quorum as required by law. The shambles which the country and the judiciary find itself is not so easily solved. What of the appointments made to the judicial bench by the JLSC? And the flowing from those, what of all those convictions and sentences passed by those appointees?

It is perhaps the Trinidadian way to think that simply “firing” and “rehiring” Justice Pemberton would solve the problem. All that is doing is putting a coat of paint on a sadly battered fence, to use a Mark Twain analogy. Or, more aptly in this case, a dab of ‘Liquid Paper’ over a ‘b’ to change it to an ‘a’. That merely resolves the problem of the appointment from this point onward, while the rot that started in 2017 with the original ‘appointment’ remains.

The liquid paper President ironically writes to propose a solution to the very body that is illegal! Does she need the approval of the JLSC to make the changes? Imagine a judge asking a convicted felon, “I’m suggesting I sentence you to the death penalty, do you approve?”

The situation is not merely farcical, it’s a downright upright middle finger to the entire country! And, don’t forget the proposal to reappoint Justice Pemberton again points that middle finger at the more senior judges who also qualified for the post.

What I understand further is that in Trinidad, power – perceived power – is held on to at all costs. It is why Justice Pemberton, like so many others, does not have the shame to resign, but is waiting for the ignominy of being ‘fired’. It would have been simple for her to resign following the Privy Council (PC) judgment, but that is not the Trini way, is it?

Or, maybe she sees that a resignation letter is too much to liquid paper over.