Does our AG know what we think he should know?
History is replete with examples of flagrant folly falling flippantly from the mouths of many politicians.
Some of those comments were innocently made; some were made as a result of dormant stupidity suddenly roused; some were uttered to placate interest groups; and many have been made because of disconnect between cranium and oral cavity.
In February 2002, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had this to say: “Reports that say something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” Mr Rumsfeld at the time was making a ‘clarification’ on questions raised about his country’s futile search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
On July 6, 2016, Barbados’ Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite had this to say: “if you, for example, can release on bail someone who names himself Lord Evil, I see no reason why you cannot release Constable Gittens on bail.
“And I am not saying that because it sounds good; because the Commissioner Acting [Tyrone Griffith] would tell you that I have said on more than one occasion how sad I am that I’m sitting seeing others being released on bail and we have this chap allegedly in solitary confinement for his own protection. It is not a situation that I support, but again, it is not within my power.” Mr Brathwaite was referring to the 14 months on remand that policeman Everton Gittens has spent on 2015 charges for murder and wounding with intent.
Let us establish from the outset that we believe that each accusation of murder and subsequent request for bail must be treated on individual merit. We are cognizant of the fact that each case will have its own circumstances and these must be taken into consideration when applications for bail are made and subsequently granted or denied. But we do not subscribe to the belief that a police officer, magistrate or minister of government who finds himself or herself on a murder charge, is more deserving of bail than a hawker, taxi driver or unemployed eunuch.
If the Laws of Barbados permit the granting of bail for murder, then we must abide by such until amendments to existing legislation place specific and heavily conditioned requirements for the granting of the same. But we distance ourselves from Mr Brathwaite’s utterances on two main fronts. Indeed, so grievous are his comments that we can appreciate why many believe he is now loitering in the Office of Attorney General.
Often one’s profession or place in society carries with it a higher degree of responsibility and accountability than others. While we are not shocked when a kleptomaniac steals or a paedophile molests children, we hold up our police officers, soldiers and members of military or paramilitary organisations generally, to the highest standards of conduct. When they are alleged to have fallen from grace, this should not translate into showing them favour or championing their cause because others of less station benefited from our judicial processes.
Mr Gittens’ case is sub judice and we will not comment on its specifics. However, what we will comment on is the seeming disconnect between the mouth and the cranium of Mr Brathwaite.
Mr Gittens was charged by the State, as represented by the Royal Barbados Police Force. Mr Brathwaite is part of the judicial process of the same State. Mr Brathwaite is out of place to call publicly for bail for any individual who is on remand as a result of the same judicial processes of which he is a part. Indeed, the utterings of the Police Association on insisting that Mr Gittens be bailed are equally questionable when one considers that the association represents the individuals who did their jobs by indicting him in the first place.
It must be made pellucidly clear that we make no judgment on whether Mr Gittens should be bailed or not. But we are adamant that the call for bail for a police officer should not come from an Attorney General. We can understand the plea coming from emotional members of a Police Association with whom Mr Gittens worked. But Mr Brathwaite has descended into ‘Rumsfeldian’ diatribe.
But it gets worse.
In his exuberance to make a case for Mr Gittens’ release, Mr Brathwaite suggests that if another murder accused, Andre Lord Evil Jackman, can receive bail, then so should Mr Gittens. Mr Jackman’s matter is also sub judice and he is innocent [like Mr Gittens] until proven guilty. But for Mr Brathwaite to make such a pre-trial comment connotes only negative about Mr Jackman. Mr Brathwaite must appreciate he is the Attorney General, his mouthings carry clout and Mr Jackman is to be tried by a jury of his peers. What message did Mr Brathwaite send to prospective jurors yesterday?
Perhaps, there are known knowns which Mr Brathwaite knows, or he might not know of known knowns which we know. Or, there might be unknowns that we know which are unknown to him. Who knows? But what we do know, is that as Attorney General, the goodly gentleman ought to know better about his own office.