Judge knocks Judiciary's ole mas criticism

Two High Court judges have dis­tanced them­selves from the Ju­di­cia­ry's state­ments which crit­i­cised an ole mas pre­sen­ta­tion on the steps of of the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain last Fri­day.

Jus­tices Frank Seep­er­sad and Car­ol Gob­in who have been out­spo­ken about their dis­ap­proval with the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing em­bat­tled Chief Jus­tice Ivor Archie have con­demned the Ju­di­cia­ry’s stance on the mat­ter.

Last Fri­day, a group of ole mas mas­quer­aders gath­ered out­side the Hall of Jus­tice bear­ing plac­ards crit­i­cal of the Chief Jus­tice, the Ju­di­cial and Le­gal Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (JLSC), and of the Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Jus­tice.

In re­sponse, the Ju­di­cia­ry which is un­der the charge of act­ing Chief Jus­tice Pe­ter Ja­madar ac­knowl­edged the right of free­dom of thought and ex­pres­sion and as­so­ci­at­ed en­ti­tle­ments, as well as the “per­mis­sive so­cial com­men­tary and cri­tique” as­so­ci­at­ed with Car­ni­val through ca­lyp­so, ole mas and pi­cong. How­ev­er, the Ju­di­cia­ry cau­tioned that there were bound­aries that ought not to be crossed.

“Thus where­as crit­i­cism of the Ju­di­cia­ry and of ju­di­cial of­fi­cers is per­mis­si­ble, any such com­ment ought to be fair, rea­son­able and pro­por­tion­ate and ought to show ap­pro­pri­ate re­spect for the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice and ju­di­cial of­fi­cers in the dis­charge of their du­ties. It is in these cir­cum­stances that the Ju­di­cia­ry urges tem­per­ance in the pub­lic crit­i­cisms lev­elled against the JLSC, CJ and the Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Jus­tice. Un­war­rant­ed, crass and de­mean­ing crit­i­cisms are not like­ly to be jus­ti­fi­able in ei­ther the so­cial or the pub­lic in­ter­est, and may more like­ly un­der­mine them both,” the Ju­di­cia­ry stat­ed.

How­ev­er, in a press re­lease, sup­port­ed by Gob­in, Seep­er­sad un­re­served­ly dis­as­so­ci­at­ed him­self from the Ju­di­cia­ry's state­ment.

“As a ju­di­cial of­fi­cer, I have nev­er felt that my of­fice shields me from mea­sured cri­tique, com­men­tary which is not defam­a­to­ry or from be­ing held to ac­count for my ac­tions both in and out of court. Re­spect for high of­fice can­not be de­mand­ed, it has to be earned. To en­gen­der same, the of­fice hold­er must con­duct him­self/ her­self in such a man­ner which sig­nals that he/she re­spects and ac­knowl­edges the im­port of the of­fice, trea­sures the priv­i­lege to serve and con­sci­en­tious­ly strives to be­have in a man­ner which em­u­lates and adopts the high­est stan­dards of hon­esty and in­tegri­ty. As ju­di­cial of­fi­cers, we have a height­ened oblig­a­tion to en­sure that we con­duct our pro­fes­sion­al and per­son­al lives in a man­ner which is de­void of de­viance, dys­func­tion and du­plic­i­ty.” Seep­er­sad said cit­i­zens de­serve to have judges who are above re­proach and ju­di­cial of­fi­cers must be cog­nisant that it will be ex­treme­ly dif­fi­cult for mem­bers of the pub­lic to re­spect the judge­ments de­liv­ered if they are un­able to re­spect the in­di­vid­u­als who de­liv­ered them.

Seep­er­sad said from what was not­ed the print and so­cial me­dia, the de­pic­tions did not ap­pear to be un­fair, un­rea­son­able and/or dis­pro­por­tion­ate, es­pe­cial­ly when re­gard is had to the is­sues which have been tra­versed be­fore the courts, the re­port pre­pared by the Law As­so­ci­a­tion, the pend­ing mat­ters still to be ad­ju­di­cat­ed up­on and the in­for­ma­tion in the pub­lic do­main. 

“The de­pic­tions al­so ap­peared to be re­flec­tive of the pi­cong, dou­ble en­ten­dre and hu­mour which is syn­ony­mous with ole mas. The right and abil­i­ty to en­gage in so­cial com­men­tary is in­dica­tive of a healthy democ­ra­cy and any at­tempt to sub­vert free­dom of ex­pres­sion premised up­on any mis­guid­ed per­cep­tion of un­touch­a­bil­i­ty, en­ti­tle­ment or priv­i­lege, has to be strong­ly con­demned,” Seep­er­sad stat­ed.

Reporter: Sascha Wilson

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