Garbage Country

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
March 05, 2018

“The constitutional conventions…provide the flesh which clothes the dry bones of the law; they make the legal constitution work.” —Sir Ivor Jennings

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeSomehow I can’t get the image out of my mind: a garbage truck, driving into East Dry River and dumping its contents in the middle of a city street. Some say the driver was forced at gunpoint to do so, while others said he showed his loyalty to his friends. The police contend that he dumped the garbage out of spite, malice, or mischief. He was charged “for willfully obstructing the free passage of a road and for littering” (Guardian, February 23).

Four days after Lance Cupidore dumped his garbage, CNN correspondent Clare Garnell reported: “A huge mountain of garbage that towered over the homes in an impoverished district of Mozambique’s capital has collapsed, killing 17 people.” Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cockrane noted that “those affected are the poorest of the poor….They have no choice but to live there, and when there’s heavy rain, they’re the ones who find themselves in the front line.”

On the same day the garbage pile collapsed in Mozambique, Trinidad and Tobago’s Chief Justice dumped his legal garbage on citizens. In November 2017 the Express began to look into the appropriateness of his behavior. Recognizing the stench those accusations were having on the dispensation of justice the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) intervened as mediators.

The CJ immediately served LATT with a pre-protocol letter asking that “no further steps be taken until the high court has pronounced on the legal and constitutional propriety of the association’s proposed action” (Guardian, February 23). Thereafter, the CJ hired five lawyers to ensure his privileges remained intact: “As a judge, I enjoy security of tenure and protection from investigation of the question of my removal from office, save in accordance with the procedures set out under the constitution, undertaken by the persons and the bodies authorized under Section 137 of the Constitution” (Express, February 28).

I am not sure if people make a constitution or vice versa but a constitution represents a code of rules that define the relationship between the people and various officers of government whom the people elect. Whatever rights and privileges the CJ enjoys, he has a corroborating responsibility to be transparent and morally sensitive to the people who elevated him to his “honorable position.” The rights and privileges he enjoys did not descend from heaven; they emanated from a contract with his people that can never be written down or embodied fully in legal language.

Sometimes the unwritten part of a text is just as important as its written dimension. Some call it “conventional morality” (moral principles based on social norms) or “constitutional conventions” (unwritten customs shared throughout the community), which H. Barnett calls “the most significant class of non-legal constitutional rules” (Constitutional and Administrative Law). One may argue that the higher form of moral and/or legal behavior is not derived only from what is written but also from what is just and moral. It’s what ordinary folks call “the decent thing to do.”

I am not a lawyer so I can’t litigate this case. But the meaning of texts—be it legal, theological, or literary—is not confined only to its linguistic dimensions. Umberto Eco, the famous Italian philosopher and semiotician, reminded us: “When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means, a precept that the commentators of the holy books had very clearly in mind” (The Name of the Rose).

The CJ is the head of our judicial service, the third person in line to lead the country if the president or the prime minister cannot perform their functions. The CJ may attempt to manipulate the system for his immediate benefit. But the public is not fooled. They do not have to understand legal terms to believe that his actions constitute a breach of faith with those he serves.

Our CJ is a learned man. He is “an honorary member of the temple bench, one of London’s four inns of Court, and is considered a liberal thinker on gay rights” (London Guardian, February 27). He should understand that the head of the judiciary should not be suspected nor allow himself to be suspected of wrongdoing. He must be above suspicion.

Julius Caesar was a major figure in Rome. His wife was associated with Publius Clodius, a notoriously dissolute man of his city. Although he did not believe the rumors about his wife, Caesar divorced her on the grounds that “my wife ought not even to be under suspicion.” This gave rise to the expression: “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

The CJ will have his day in the legal court and the court of public opinion. In spite of the legal garbage he presents, many people believe he has something to hide. His garbage may not be as pungent as what Cupidore emptied on Observatory Street but it offends our sensibilities nonetheless.

The CJ might prevail in a court of law but he has already lost his standing in the court of public opinion.

He must decide if he is willing to accept the latter verdict even if he achieves a legal victory.

9 Responses to “Garbage Country”


  • This current administration has lowered the bar so low it will be difficult to go any lower.
    (1) The sea bridge to Tobago. Currently hotels and break and breakfast has missed their biggest season, the Carnival season. They are hurting badly with no end in sight. Even with a promise boat that was suppose to arrive before Christmas, none to date.
    (2) They have instituted the most brutal tax regime at a time when the country is in recession. The property tax that they are bringing will be the final “nail in the coffin”. Businesses will pay millions and consumers will pick up the tab.
    (3)Job loss, thousands are on the breadline but if you look at the Central Statistical Office on job loss and unemployment it is less than 1% diffrent from 2015. Manipulation of data is now the order of the day. CEPEP has been told to make drastic cuts. A husband and wife with 9 children laid off. Travelers and businesses getting $200 US per month, whilst the 1% have no such problem.

    I could go on but it too depressing to understand and explain the assault on the ordinary citizen who is being asked to pay more money from WASA despite empty taps. More on electricity, more on all Consumer items etc.

    Yes the exegesis on the CJ is spot on but he is not a man of integrity. Personally I think he was appointed too early in life by Manning. There was much more older more suitably qualified people. The CJ position is a lifelong position. Meaning it is very difficult to get rid of someone his age. Only action by the PM as Manning did against former CJ Sharma can end this. Rowley and Archie are from the same country, Tobago. They all inbreed and are related to each other. So as they say blood is thicker than water. Meanwhile reports of Archie paying for young boys in the past remains that….

  • Yuh wrong on this one Professor.

    Judge rules: Law Association cannot probe CJ
    …it has no power
    Published on Mar 6, 2018, 3:35 pm AST
    By Rickie Ramdass Multimedia Desk

    Justice Nadia Kangaloo has ruled that the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) does not have the power to investigate allegations of misconduct against Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
    The judge said no such power is vested under the Legal Professions Act, and as such, the Law Association’s probe is considered null, void, and irrational in law.

    http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20180306/news/judge-rules-law-association-cannot-probe-cj

    Professor wrote: *Sometimes the unwritten part of a text is just as important as its written dimension. Some call it “conventional morality” (moral principles based on social norms) or “constitutional conventions” (unwritten customs shared throughout the community), which H. Barnett calls “the most significant class of non-legal constitutional rules” (Constitutional and Administrative Law). One may argue that the higher form of moral and/or legal behavior is not derived only from what is written but also from what is just and moral. It’s what ordinary folks call “the decent thing to do.”*

    What is MORALITY in a multi-cultural/religious State?
    Where is your friend Sat on this ‘Buggery’ issue?
    AAMF, what is the HINDU position on buggery…
    They are rather quiet on this one…. I wonder why?

    • Let us not make this a “sexuality” or homophobic issue. This urgent crisis pertaining to the CJ of questionable character has nothing to do with “buggery”, Sat or the Hindu position.
      I believe that if the criminal character associated with the CJ was a woman, the moral position taken by the Professor and what seems like the majority of the country, would not change.
      Also, there are other incriminating issues directed at the CJ which are even more damaging.
      Chief Justice Archie Ivor has demonstrated that he lacks the temperament, moral fibre,discretion,and legal and administrative abilities to hold one of the highest offices in the land.

      • I was not trying to ‘link’ the ‘buggery’ issue with the CJ, we are yet to understand what the CJ has done… Allyuh tell we nah… in plain English.

        I was just trying to show how ‘culture’ influences ‘morality’… They say, One man’s culture is another man’s sin.

        I think it is time to look into this Law Association and its history with African Lawyers…

        HERE…

        *Two lawyers suspended
        Fri, 2009-01-16 22:48 —
        jason Byline Author:
        Francis Joseph
        Article Date:
        Sunday, January 18, 2009

        Two lawyers were suspended from practising yesterday, a third had his suspension lifted, while a fourth paid her fines in time and avoided being struck off the list of attorneys. Kenneth Munroe-Brown and William Greene were suspended from practising law in accordance with Section 25 of the Legal Profession Act. Cecil Pope, who was suspended on December 11, 2008, paid up his fines, and his application to be readmitted to the profession was approved.*

        http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/news/general/2009/01/17/two-lawyers-suspended

        • This is also not a racial issue. The CJ happens to be of African ancestry and his alleged violations have nothing to do with his race.
          Lawyers of a variety of racial origins representing the Law association are challenging him in court because of his inappropriate actions and his unsuitability for this high office.

  • ” He should understand that the head of the judiciary should not be suspected nor allow himself to be suspected of wrongdoing. He must be above suspicion”

    So the CJ has decided to take 6 months off as a sabbatical. No other CJ abdicated his job for 6 months. This CJ is operating as a law unto himself, the PM office is questioning it, but does he have the will to act on behalf of the public. The PNM is known to act mainly in their party interest rather than the public interest. Supporters could regularly be heard shouting “great is the PNM and we shall prevail”. Never would you hear them say “great is Trinidad and Tobago…..”

    Case in point Marlene McDonald known gang member associate, had cheques totaling over 1/2 million dollars to a foundation that was later registered, her common law husband Mr Carew a director.
    Along with over $2 million for a PNM contractor for a community Center that does not exist. Big Mac was rewarded with a ministerial position.

    There is a pattern of behaviour in the PNM that is as arrogant as it ever was. Todays news arising out of Arima. The mayor for the past 18 months has not been in the school. She is a school teacher now mayor. Drawing a teacher’s salary and a mayor salary because she is entitled to it. That culture of entitlement is like a disease in the PNM.

    • Keep the faith Mamoo..

      *Young leaves door open for Section 137
      Gail Alexander
      Published:
      Friday, March 9, 2018

      And if any “hurdles”have to be crossed and occasion arises for Section 137 of the Constitution – facilitating probe to ascertain whether a Chief Justice should be removed – Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will do what he’s called upon to, OPM spokesman Stuart Young has signalled.*

      http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2018-03-08/young-leaves-door-open-section-137

      Deja Vu, I know I have seen this before… Oh, it was events leading up to Mayor Tim Kee ouster as Mayor of POS by Franklyn Khan.

      Take it easy Mamoo… The PNM has been hacked.

      Now, what allyuh do to the Professor?

  • When are you people going to realize that the PNM is not a political party.
    It is a CULT.

  • ow….T man cudnt have said it better my self.ppp no different…may the creator help us..i personally see something bad happening in our country…hope im wrong but just look at the world…nobody just sitting anymore..its keos everywhere…may god bless our paradise.somew i know..without actually knowing

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