WE have said it in this space before that sometimes all a man has is his reputation. Take that away and he is left with nothing of true worth and marketable value.
Which is why we wholeheartedly agree with the position taken by the People's National Party (PNP) Region Six coming out of its weekend annual delegates' conference in Montego Bay. In essence, the delegates expressed alarm over the trial in the court of public opinion of two of its members — the deputy mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Michael Troupe, and his colleague Councillor Sylvan Reid — on allegations that they were major players in the infamous lotto scam that has claimed many lives in that western city.
In the case of Councillor Troupe, he was "handcuffed, thrown in an open truck back and paraded through sections of his (Granville) division and the town of Montego Bay and detained for over a week..." according to a statement from the PNP. It was also alleged that an illegal firearm was in his possession.
Councillor Reid, the PNP said, was additionally detained on the basis that he was in unlawful possession of a flat screen television for which he was unable to show a receipt.
Since then, the court has dismissed the charge of illegal possession of a firearm against the deputy mayor, and the police have not slapped any further charge on him. Mr Reid has also not been charged with the original allegation of involvement in the lotto scam.
We obviously cannot speak to the guilt or innocence of these two men. And like all well-thinking citizens we rely on the courts to decide and to prescribe the appropriate action whether to convict or acquit. Until a better way is found, we hold that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This applies to the more recent case of alleged bribery of a policeman by businessman Mr Bruce Bicknell and the subsequent involvement of former Information Minister Mr Daryl Vaz and Senior Superintendent James Forbes.
Again, we have no way of knowing what happened on the Sir Florizel Glasspole Boulevard where Mr Bicknell was charged, neither were we present to know what Mr Vaz or SSP Forbes did or said in relation to the matter. We, too, are looking to the court to determine the facts and the guilt or innocence of the parties involved.
We know of no other more civilised or just way to handle matters such as these. For that reason, we as a newspaper must disassociate ourselves from the columnist who has taken the stance in both cases that: "While it is clear that it is the court that must decide guilt or innocence, it seems... that a moral verdict has already been delivered."
This is a dangerous path to take. A society that operates on this basis would set itself on a certain course of destruction. The shortcomings in the Jamaican justice system have caused many people to take the law into their own hands, which is already a sure prescription for anarchy.
We must preserve the system that allows our citizens the right to their reputation. Without evidence that can stand up in a court of law, we cannot expect to cast aspersions against anyone, whether the individual is a politician, a businessman, a police officer or a janitor.
If ever any one of us is tempted to find someone guilty without going through due course, it is sufficient to remember the warning from our wise foreparents: "Same knife that stick sheep stick goat."