Columns

Justice yesterday, justice today

Barbara GLOUDON

Friday, March 28, 2014    

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OVER recent days, our justice system has become the centre of heightened public debate, not that it wasn't on the agenda before this, but this time, some events have served to step up added interest in happenings at the courthouse.

The Kartel trial is still topical. This Thursday was set as the day for his sentencing, but next thing we know, the judge has asked for discussions with the Registrar of the Court before he makes an attempt at sentencing on April 3. What a gwan, please?

A by-product of the events of past days is the increased scrutiny, examination, and all-too-frequent condemnation of our justice system by the public at large. Everybody is judge, jury and lawyer. Ah so wi stay. This led to the negative responses to the guilty verdict when it was reached in the trial of di Boss. It was not just the protesters who took an interest in the courthouse on Verdict Day, crying out for justice (interpret that as meaning acquittal) for their idol.

The day came and went, and since then, the crowds have gone back to whatever they do or don't do, but the verdict of guilty remained and Kartel went back to his cell. Since then, there have been other persons who feel it necessary to make their protest in another way.

The letters to the media columns have become a popular means for people with a cause to beat the drum. These responses should not be dismissed or taken lightly. Impatience is one of our hallmarks. If you and I don't see the same things, it is hell and powderhouse. The letter writers and argument initiators are busy these days. The expressions of support for Kartel have exposed the rifts in our society. Some see him as the patron saint of artistic creativity. Others have expressed their distaste for the questionable lyrics. Some see nothing wrong in the lyrics even when they speak of methods of murder (chop up fine-fine) or the Glock, the deadly weapon, fired in the face until 'blood run red as the tail lights of the Bimmer'. Some seem to take this as the musings of a free spirit. Never mind the openly expressed violence.

Tastes in cultural expression have changed drastically over time. We live with violence so much that we take it for granted and elevate it to the level of high art. If you can dance to the music, the lyrics don't matter. Step over the blood and keep on moving. Those who don't love it should be prepared to face hostility and rejection. These are new times, we're told. The people looove the violence. Consider the removal of certain clauses from the anti-gang legislation. Ah so it go.

Back to the courthouse

It started out under the label of "The Cuban light bulb scandal". A politician wept in Parliament, but that didn't stop the enforcers of the law. Charges were laid on the grounds of money laundering, corruption and sundry other misdemeanours. The politician and the administrative assistant became gossip fodder for media and public opinion. The trial date was eagerly awaited. We waited and waited and waited again. That was six years ago. Despite the fever with which the story began, the years passed with nothing happening.

Then, this week, the magistrate spoke. Trial ended before it started. Case dismissed. Everybody went home. The wave of cynicism, which is always lapping at our shores, grew into a tsunami of public disillusionment. Once again, justice came under the microscope. Just the other day, there wasn't enough praise to give. This week... a wha dis Fawdah?

The super-cynical say they are not surprised. They knew all along that with a politician involved... what did you expect? Those called to the bar, the one where the liquid flows freely, tried the case for themselves and declared that their long-held suspicions had been proven right. Order another round. The boys will be arguing this one for a very long time. The bar-room court is pointing to the feud between the director of public prosecution and the resident magistrate. They're positive that this resulted in the case being a non-starter. They are adamant that this ensured the case dying before it was born.

In recent days, in another justice argument, we continue to question how to mete out punishment, the example to a man sentenced for stealing mangoes. The defence is, so what if he took four mangoes off somebody's tree? He does not deserve a sentence. The justification is that he is poor and starving. The sad truth, dear friends, is that very often he is a thriving mango vendor who roams neighbourhoods, relieving unsuspecting householders of the fruits and sells them, even to the owners themselves. When caught red-handed, Mr Poor Mango Man will not hesitate to unleash his full store of adjectives combining "fabric" with many other expletives. He is not above promising violence either, if pushed too far.

The beloved ackee is another popular target for robbery. You plant, Mr Poor Man reaps. This is also extended to the wave of praedial larceny of animals. So, old Miss Mary has three goats which she has been rearing from they were kids. Mr Poor Man take two and asks what would an old lady want with three goats while he has none?

Look at all the trouble he went to, to tape up the goats' mouths so he could move them without disturbing old Miss Mary's sleep. When apprehended, questions arise about his sentence when he appears in court. Why should he serve time? A child born six years ago when the Cuban light bulb scandal began has a lot of learning to do in his years ahead... especially if he has to understand that elusive thing called Jamaica justice.

Judge not

I had to go to the tax office at Constant Spring during this week -- drivers' licence renewal time. I approached the office with dread, imagining huge crowds, heat and poor service. Not true. The waiting hall was fully air-conditioned. The service by the staff was exemplary and the public co-operative. The experience was actually pleasant.

No, I wasn't specially favoured. Everybody got the same treatment. There will be those who will always complain, but we didn't see them. It was easy to say 'Thanks'. I'm sure not every day is a day of flawless service, but considering the low opinion most have of all government services, every good experience is worthy of praise.

Bellencita

Sir Alexander Bustamante's former home in the hills of Irish Town is on sale for the second time. People are asking if the party he led couldn't initiate the acquisition of the premises and use it as another landmark, eg, a safe haven for abandoned children? Bellencita was named in honour of Lady B, the apple of his eye. Have we forgotten? How wi stay so, eeh?

gloudonb@yahoo.com

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