By Stephen Kangal
January 26, 2008
The relentless, insatiable and unmitigated fixation harboured by PM Manning in scraping the barrel for even the most tendentious and lack of a prime facie basis for wanting to disgrace and impeach former CJ Sharma as well as the rapidity of the process to effect the current appointment (done deal?) must surely lead citizens to inquire whether that whole sordid unnecessary chapter that blemished our political history in perpetuity was not a deliberately orchestrated political conspiracy engineered to remove CJ Sharma and enthrone Mr. Justice Ivor Archie in the first place.
When the Prime Minister gave CJ Sharma the ultimatum to resign or face criminal prosecution whom did he have in mind to fill the vacancy that would have occurred? At a time when the President is seeking re-appointment he is clearly susceptible to manipulation from Whitehall. He was manipulated to appoint three PNM activists as independent senators in the new Senate.
Why did the Prime Minister persevere in his impeachment agenda when it was clear that the Privy Council, if perchance the matter was referred, could not have handed down a decision before January 24, 2008, the date of retirement of CJ Sharma?
Readers will, in this regard recall that the Mustill Report indicated that”… there is a troublesome doubt concerning the precise identity of the conduct of which the complaint is made.” The Privy Council also described the features of the case as being “… to our mind troubling both individually and collectively…”
Two months before the Prime Minister sent the Section 137 representation letter to the President the Chief Magistrate refused to be cross-examined and the criminal charge against the Chief Justice collapsed. It was clear to all that basing impeachment proceedings on the lack of credibility of Mc Nichols was hazardous if not foolish and it would have failed to go to the Privy Council. Why did the PM adopt such a foolish step?
This allegedly pre-selected, successor-in-waiting CJ thesis gains increasing credibility from the fact that four senior Judges of the Appeal Court (a white, dougla, East Indian and dissenting Black) who possessed more convincing and compelling judicial credentials than 49-year-old, Tobago-born Mr Justice Archie were by-passed under mysterious, unexplained and even more troubling circumstances. Maturity and judicial diplomacy that comes with age and sojourn on the bench should have been the determining selection criteria for the successor of CJ Sharma.
It is taking forever to finalise an appointment to replace Police Commissioner Trevor Paul because of the new time-consuming provisions in the Police Act drafted by the Manning Administration that is now complaining about their own procedure. The Act was really intended to fast track decision-making procedures leading to the upgrading of the effectiveness of the hitherto non-performing, de-motivated Police Service.
But a more sensitive and responsible, third highest- ranking constitutional appointment ought to have been addressed in a more careful, transparent and consultative manner. Regard should have been made to the loss of confidence in the judiciary resulting from a spiteful, vindictive, politically-motivated and prolonged assault on the custodian of blind justice. A genuine attempt should have been made by The President to salvage and rehabilitate the disastrous situation now presiding over the battered Judiciary.
The new appointment was effected with the non-traditional speed and rapidity that leads one to conclude that the incumbent was on the cards and his name operated as the catalyst since May 2006. That there was more in the Manning mortar than the pestle that sought to grind former CJ Sharma to a chocolate paste.
That the influentially domineering Black Caucus within the ruling PNM Administration found that a black Chief Justice especially one from the sister-isle of Tobago, although relatively speaking with less judicial sojourn on the bench, would have been more politically correct in signaling to the base that the PNM stands exclusively for black solidarity and the empowerment of black people ceteris paribus.
And politics takes precedence over people in PNM country.