Just a few weeks ago, whilst reviewing from a very personal perspective, the six decades of the People’s National Congress (PNC), I recalled the political crossovers of two ideological players.
One was the Trinidad-born Ranji Chandisingh, once Cheddi Jagan’s loyal thinker, who switched sides to become a senior Minister in and General Secretary of the PNC under its “Founder-Leader” LFSB. The other was/is Henry Jeffrey, socialist thinker-teacher (Cuffy/Kofi Ideological College?? Who changed sides to befriend Cheddi Jagan and served in several top PPP Ministerial positions before he (Henry) could take no more of President Doctor Jagdeo’s arrogant manipulations.
Well, it’s a Henry Jeffrey commentary which inspires these observations which follow. I refer to his 25th October Wednesday Column (Future Notes).
For starters, that column’s caption `Bullshit cannot perennially baffle brains’ indicated perhaps a rare departure from the Stabroek’s more cautious, restrained conservative editorial style. (Jeffrey himself was quoting the “B” word from a lecture by an “eminent” British Journalist.) Of course, the thrust of the column dealt with the Granger-generated controversy regarding his method and choice with respect to the new Chairman of the Elections Commission. The Ideological-oriented Jeffrey- now a worthy political analyst now blessed with practical hindsight- really seemed to be accusing the President of trying to “baffle” the brains of the uniformed and the indifferent with his own unique interpretations of what the Constitution means when it comes to selecting a chairperson for that particular Commission. What a strong, harsh B-word to describe Presidential waffling!
But it is Jeffrey’s opinion(s) about a final (?) solution to the constitutional political imbroglio that attracted my attention. And it has to do with the role of the courts(s).
Courts, Law, Common Good
To preface what brief comment follows I remind that I write for the unlettered who, like me are out of their depth where civil law on such lofty constitutional issues is concerned. Reasonable thinking mixed with analytical common sense can combine, however, to guide us lesser mortals to accurate justifiable understandings.
Secondly, Frankly Speaking, to me the judges’ workloads render then time- as long as they wish – to deliver decisions they will deem to be lawful, even just.
I also consider the consequences of President Granger’s chairman choice. Historian Granger apparently loves to name and rename things from a street to a conference centre to a Ministry. “Social Cohesion” as Ministry, as concept and as idealistic aspiration, is certainly going to take a lengthy hit in the minds of thousands of Opposition supporters with Granger’s unilateral defiance of precedence. But back to Henry Jeffrey’s Courts and Laws.
Ironically, it could be that among the Attorney-General’s Panel of advisors, Justice Patterson could have been advising the President on matters relating to his (Patterson’s) appointment!
Given the President’s earlier variance from the acting Chief Justice’s “interpretation” what could we expect from him and his team when further decisions are handed down locally?
Jeffrey reminds us that often “laws are insufficient, unclear and conflict” As a concerned layman, especially post-30, I’ve always appreciated that legal trained drafters are often not perfect trying to protect the complete social “common good”. So many rules were crafted much earlier. Even foreign legal precedents are chosen exclusively, selectively.
Jeffrey tells us what courts attempt to do. Besides the text of a law he cites five sources which could guide legal interpretation of a constitution. I’ll spare you those five here. But I share his view that certain decisions should never be left to a single legal arbiter. So it is not unlikely that this issue will travel from Kingston, Georgetown to Port-of Spain Trinidad and Tobago. One unilateral choice will engage many minds and much time. Time during which President Granger’s chairman will proceed with his Commission’s vital work.
Jeffrey doesn’t think that Granger’s method will eventually stand. I myself dare not predict. But I’ll close by again quoting another commentator- a Stabroek editorial writer:
“These questions will now more than likely have to be finally settled by the court. That in itself is an expectation that can lead to more disappointment. Chief Justice (ag) George’s ruling on the questions posed in an action by businessman Marcel Gaskin provided ample sources of confusion. Why the judge in her judgment even referred to the proviso in Article 161 (2) which apparently emboldened the president’s unilateral appointment is unfathomable.”