If only for the sake of justice

Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes once wrote eloquently about the culture of procrastination. He has been dead almost 400 years but the lesson on a mañana philosophy has been left; if not learnt.

Fast forward to 21st Century Barbados and the admonishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice in the appeal case of Winton Campbell versus The Attorney General 2009. Justices Nelson, Saunders, Bernard, Wit and Hayton deliberated in the English tongue but theirs was about that same sickness again – mañana, procrastination.

Listen to the words of Justice Saunders on judicial delays: “In our view, no judgment should be outstanding for more than six months and, unless a case is one of unusual difficulty or complexity, judgment should normally be delivered within three months.”

He went on to state that such efficient justice is needed not only for the furtherance of the best interests of employers and employees but also for the proper protection and encouragement of investors and entrepreneurs whose activities are crucial to the welfare of Barbados and its people.

These learned men spoke against the background that Campbell, a former chief electrical engineer in Barbados, had to wait more than 17 years to get justice. They went further. The CCJ put the blame for this delay, this mañana, this procrastination, squarely on Barbados’ judicial process.

“It is unfortunate that we cannot overlook that Justice Waterman took three years to deliver his judgment, while the Court of Appeal took almost four and a half years, despite section 18(8) of the Constitution conferring upon litigants the right for their case to ‘be given a fair hearing within a reasonable time’,” the CCJ stated.

The CCJ went further: “Such delays deny parties the access to justice to which they are entitled and undermine confidence in the administration of justice.”

There is a systemic mañana culture in Barbados that seemingly permeates every nook and cranny in the island. Some perpetrators attract censure but avoid punishment because of their status and power. But this island bleeds as a result.

There is currently an unfortunate situation in Barbados which has now been drawn to the attention of the public by acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith on three occasions and the giant sloth that is our judicial system is apparently still moving at the same rate for which it was chided by the CCJ.

Mr Griffith has complained that there have been no promotions in the Royal Barbados Police Force for more than three years because of a legal matter before the Supreme Court involving a number of his officers and his suspended former boss. Mr Griffith has complained where the slow machinery of the judicial process has created a situation where more than 100 vacancies cannot be filled. Mr Griffith has complained that the state of affairs is affecting police morale. Mr Grifith has complained at conferences. Mr Griffith has complained in the public domain. But is anyone listening?

Nothing affects the safety and security of a country more than a disgruntled constabulary or disillusioned police officers. But does anyone care?

The matter of which Mr Griffith spoke has been making the rounds in our judicial system for more than two years. The plaintiffs reside in the Barbados jurisdiction. The defendants reside in the Barbados jurisdiction. The respective lawyers reside in the Barbados jurisdiction. Our Justices reside in the Barbados jurisdiction. Yet a matter of such national import remains incomplete and dawdling in the judicial system.

When sociologists carry out their studies on the reasons behind spikes in criminal behaviour, they often relate such conduct and increases to poverty, unemployment, lack of education, diminishing values, the drug culture, and a number of plausible reasons. Perhaps, they need to examine the effect that low morale and an absence of upward mobility can have on effective policing.

Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson has already spoken to, and admitted that there are issues in the judicial system that need to be addressed. Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has previously acknowledged that Mr Griffith has legitimate concerns and that everything will be done to accelerate the process.

But complaints in other areas, from business and sports, to entertainment, about the slow nature of doing most things in Barbados, suggest that we are excellent talkers, eloquent of speech, sound and fury, but signifying nothing that resembles swift remedial action.

The protection of life, the safeguard of property, the maintenance of law and order, are all part of Mr Griffith’s remit.

We do him, the Royal Barbados Police Force and the country a great disservice if the wheels of justice continue to remain stuck in a mañana culture.


One Response to If only for the sake of justice

  1. Tony Webster August 16, 2014 at 2:42 am

    Touché Madam Editor. Forgive me if I mis-quote Our Beloved Dipper, who never said that he would not reduce himself, or indeed the honour of the high office he held, by loitering on the steps of the magnificent building known as The Supreme Court Of Barbados. Indeed, he seemed to be asserting a profound dislike of loitering…anywhere.

    Mind you, similar nuggets of wisdom are oft found in strange places, such as inside a shop licensed to sell spiritus liquors. One was heard to ask another therein: “who watches the watch-man…or watchmen…or even “strict guardians of our fate”?


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