Letters to the Editor

Why didn't Justice Sykes decline the acting appointment?

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

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Dear Editor,

That Justice Bryan Sykes has accepted the position of acting chief justice is, not withstanding his stellar career as a jurist, an indictment on him and raises serious questions about his willingness to act on principle.

If, in principle, the appointment of an acting chief justice, in the manner in which it was done by the prime minister, is unconstitutional, as argued by several legal luminaries, then the goodly justice, qualified as he is, should not have accepted the position.

If so many varied legal minds have come to the conclusion that there is something unseemly about the imposition of arbitrary performance standards on the judiciary by the executive, why did Justice Sykes, who is noted for his legal acumen, not come to a similar conclusion and raise objections when the prime minister sought to hijack the constitutional provision of the acting chief justice?

No one would, of course, want to deny the long-suffering justice his ambitions to ascend to high office — by all accounts he is indeed deserving. However, his acceptance of a faulty legal logic — on which the prime minister clearly took no advice — leaves much to be desired.

Furthermore, his acceptance of the position based on the nebulous terms outlined by the prime minister indicates that he is complicit in having the executive interfere with the judiciary. Sykes, upon recognising the unconstitutionality of the prime minister's imposition on the office of the chief justice, should have declined the appointment on principle alone or at least declare his objection upon acceptance of the post.

Is it that he did not come to the conclusion that what the prime minister has proposed will, in effect, violate the principle of separation of powers? If it is that Sykes did not make this logical leap, then that is a serious cause for concern for someone who is to be head of the judiciary.

If he did come to the conclusion that it is unconstitutional, and did not have the guts to take the prime minister to task, then that speaks to the depths of his complicity and should be a disqualifying factor for one who is to be the vanguard of what is already perceived as a corrupt and broken justice system.

Paulton Frankson





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