No One Is Above The Law – But Society Had Better Be Careful When Messing With A Chief Justice
Satnarine Sharma, Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, has been suspended by T&T’s President George Maxwell Richards. This has to do with allegations that Sharma attempted to influence the outcome of a court case against former Prime Minister Badeo Panday. (You can read about this story at Caribbean360.com here.)
In our view, any action against a Chief Justice or any judge is a most serious matter. We cannot have judges (especially a Chief Justice) continually worried about frivolous complaints or politically-motivated challenges to their authority and position. This doesn’t mean that we give judges license to break the law, it means that we recognize that the independence of an honest judiciary is one of the cornerstones of democracy. When anyone challenges the actions or integrity of a judge all citizens should pay careful attention because there is much more at stake than the integrity or competence of a judge as a person.
Barbados Chief Justice Under A Cloud?
Here in Barbados our Chief Justice David Simmons has recently been named in a civil lawsuit that also names the Prime Minister and many other prominent Barbados citizens and businesses. As we read the lawsuit, it is alleged that the government and business people have conspired over the last twenty years to commit unethical and possibly illegal acts to make a profit for themselves.
Firstly, a reminder to all that allegations are just allegations and nothing is proven unless and until it is proven properly in a court.
Here is the problem as we see it…
We would love to come to the defense of Barbados’ Chief Justice and say “Nonsense, the Chief Justice has never been involved in politics or land development or land transactions for the government.”
But we can’t say that because our current Chief Justice had 25 years of government and backroom-boys’ politics before he put on a Judge’s robes.
Only weeks before being appointed as Chief Justice, David Simmons was a Cabinet Minister under the current Prime Minister. For that reason alone we were disappointed that Mr. Simmons accepted the position of Chief Justice as we believed that his appointment lacked the important appearance of independence right from the start. Once again, this is not to say that David Simmons does not or did not have the knowledge or integrity necessary for the position – we objected because his background in the rough and tumble world of Barbados politics made him an unwise choice for the position of Chief Justice.
Now we have allegations surfacing from before David Simmons became our Chief Justice – and that is unfortunate to say the least. Whether the allegations are true or not, and even if they occurred long ago during his political backroom days, it still throws a bit of a cloud over the OFFICE of the Chief Justice. That’s just reality.
Every Bride Is A Virgin – Or So They Say!
They say that every bride instantly becomes a virgin again on her wedding day (at least Auntie Moses says so!) and I guess we all hoped that a similar process would happen when David Simmons became Chief Justice.
But just like a newly “re-virginated” bride can sometimes have old lovers walk embarrassingly back into her life, David Simmons has found that his new judicial robes can’t free him of decades of backroom deals, favours asked and favours granted – and the political and economic strategies that he and his BLP Government Cabinet dreamed up and implemented.
Let’s hope that the allegations against David Simmons are eventually disproven, but Barbados should remember this lesson when it comes time to appoint a new Chief Justice.