Respect for the judiciary

Respect for the judiciary

Thursday, August 13, 2020

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Dear Editor,

How important or influential is public opinion? Ask any seasoned politician, especially during an election campaign.

Are members of the judiciary expected to pay any or even special attention to the court of public opinion during deliberations on constitutional challenges and other crucial matters?

The judiciary is the branch of Government which administers justice according to law. Balance, resonance, and harmony are most desirable, but no system is perfect, and we will not always agree with each other and with rulings by the judiciary.

The recent ruling by the Supreme Court, before Emancipation Day, which has sparked widespread criticism and condemnation from many quarters, is a classic example.

There are many issues, for me, which are being highlighted by this controversy:

• the tendency, in recent times, for open criticisms of the judiciary by even highly influential people;

• black consciousness and identity, especially relating to hairstyles, freedom of expression, and the way this may clash with rules and regulations of institutions and even societal laws; as well as

• the manner in which we conduct public discourse and the unfortunate threats issued to members of the judiciary during this controversy and the implications for democracy and societal stability.

If we desire to reduce crimes and maintain law and order in our society then it is critical to have an independent, impartial judiciary which is free from all forms of intimidation. Hence, I had anticipated the swiftest and strongest condemnation of this threat by influential people and groups in our society.

Highest commendations to Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, who condemned this act right away and outlined its implications for our democracy. But I was most disappointed by the muted response to threats to the judiciary by the Ministry of National Security, the Opposition, Jamaican Bar, business people, religious leaders, civil society, and those who perpetually praise themselves as the vanguards of democracy, the Press Association of Jamaica.

The greatest threat to Jamaica right now is not pandemic, but the threat of lawlessness which will further worsen the spread of the novel coronavirus. COVID-19's survival rate is more than 90 per cent, but the mortality from the bullet, in many respects, is close to 90 per cent.

People have a right to speak out and voice their views on various issues, but while doing so we must be prepared to hear each other out, including our judges. Great ideas leading to transformation often come from a combination of good ideas after careful evaluation.

Which do we wish to dominate? The court of public opinion or the judiciary? Judges do err, and are not beyond criticisms — which should be done in a manner which strengthens and does not weaken the system. It is within our collective interest for greater societal stability to show more respect to the judiciary

Daive R Facey

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