Columns

'Worl' Boss', 'Bulb Boss' and the rule of law in Jamaica

BY YANNICK PESSOA

Monday, April 07, 2014    

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I would like to point to the glaring hypocrisy at the core of much of the media commentaries surrounding the Worl' Boss and his conviction. Many have been quick to lambaste him — as maybe he deserves to be — but I ask, what part did the gatekeepers of information have in building the Vybz Kartel they are now so quick to turn their backs on? Were not the media gatekeepers, too, neglecting their social responsibility by not better regulating the airwaves and not filtering what was being siphoned to the nation?

I would like to point to the glaring hypocrisy at the core of the decision to free Kern "Bulb Boss" Spencer. The Government has shown its will to decisively uphold the rule of law is weak. We live in a time and political climate in Jamaica where the State seems committed to consistently targeting the marginalised and those not able to buy the best lawyers. Hence the nation has no faith in the justice system, nor does it believe in the institutions charged with maintaining law and order.

I want to make a point of note on the rule of law to our ministries of national security and justice. The rule of law is concerned with the range of processes through which the law governing the relationships amongst individual and State can be enforced and administered. This crucial theme that has grown out of the concept of the rule of law as it has been developed in the UK, and is adopted here in Jamaica, posits that in Albert Venn Dicey's understanding "the law should not be arbitrarily or capriciously administered by those in power".

The spirit of the Constitution of Jamaica is that the power or duties of each arm of government should not overlap. Resident Magistrates don't have security of tenure as part of the public service and yet such an office falls within the executive arm of the State. Hence, the court system we have may very well contravene the constitution and the notion of the separation of powers as well as undermine the doctrine of rule of law. The Jamaican RM Court is a one of a kind in the world. No other such structure exists.

Let us not overlook the mess made in the creation of the Gun Court. It was a failure in scholarship and jurisprudence. The unusual features of the Gun Court have faced legal challenges, some of which have forced amendment of the Gun Court Act. The Gun Court has faced criticism on several fronts, most notably for its departure from traditional practices, its large backlog of cases, and for the continuing escalation in gun violence since its institution.

A 1993 country report on human rights practices in Jamaica from the United States Department of State noted the denial of a "fair public trial" and alleged that Gun Court trials observe "less rigorous rules of evidence than in regular court proceedings". The Canadian Bar Association's Jamaican Justice System Reform Task Force noted that the Gun Court is overloaded; that defendants are not well represented, and Crown attorneys are often inexperienced. Hence, when reviewed by international standards, it is evident that we have a unique court system — and that's no compliment.

If we are to move forward as a nation we must cut these wretched political hypocrisies in our system.

"Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people." — John Adams

Yannick Nesta Pessoa is a writer, artist and entrepreneur. Comments: yannickpessoa@yahoo.com

http://yahnyk.blogspot.com & http://yahnyk.tumblr.com

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