Paula Llewellyn has earned any extension of her term in office
The extension of the tenure of the holder of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) is again in the public domain. In fact, the Government has moved with unaccustomed speed to move and approve a bill to increase the retirement age for the DPP and the auditor general (AuG) from 60 to 65 years.
The Lower House approved the move and the Senate last Friday ratified it. And now the governor general has signed it into law.
Under ordinary circumstances many would agree that this was an appropriate change to make. After all, to retire someone at 60 years old, who is still filled with the Jamaican vim and vigour, shows sharpness of mind and agility of thinking, and whose cognitive grasp of subject matters is sharper than a butcher’s meat-cutting knife is nothing short of a travesty and enormously foolhardy.
The Government may want to do an appraisal or human resource audit of the different agencies of the public sector to consider the veracity of similar changes to be made. Today’s 60- or even 65-year-old still has a lot to contribute.
But this attempt to move the DPP’s tenure to 65 years is fraught with a lot of difficulties, the least of which is the political tribalism that has attended it. But there is also the troubling matter of how the decision was rushed through both chambers of the House and approved simply because the Government has the overwhelming majority in the Parliament.
In a functioning democracy, any well-thinking citizen must be concerned about any constitutional change which excludes participation of citizens. The Government may have been constrained by its own time frame in having the measure determined, but making constitutional change without even a scintilla of reference to public comment stinks to high heavens.
This indecent rush, however, must be separated from the merit of Paula Llewellyn continuing in her position for another two years. The bellicosity oozing from the People’s National Party (PNP) in this regard leaves a lot to be desired. In 2021, the PNP under the then leadership of Dr Peter Phillips, vigorously opposed a three-year extension of her term. The contention then, as it now is, is that her office had failed to be very vigorous in prosecuting crime, especially in the area of government corruption.
If you judge from the statement of Opposition member Donna Scott Mottley in the Senate last Friday, she seems to suggest a reluctance on the part of the ODPP to go vigorously after certain Members of Parliament who have been fingered for wrongdoing in the recent report of the Integrity Commission.
Be that as it may, the PNP, for reasons best known to itself, has always not viewed the work of Llewellyn with any great favour. Derision has been its hallmark when assessing her work. So, the latest opposition can be considered par for the course. There seems to be a very thick layer of personality conflict between her and the PNP, which certainly will not deter us here.
The greater question is whether Llewellyn has done her work well and whether another two years at the helm will do catastrophic damage to the office she holds. This writer believes that it will not. I believe that talk about constitutional sabotage in this matter is sheer poppycock. So too is talk about Llewellyn bringing the ODPP into disrepute.
I am not in the habit of quoting myself, something which I viscerally abhor, but in a piece I did on Llewellyn during the 2021 tirade against her being given a further three years in office, I wrote: “Her passion for the work and her sense of dedication to it cannot be assailed nor impugned. She has brought a level of integrity to the office that is admirable. At times she has tried to educate the public on legal matters, taking pains to explain without confusing legal terminology why a case went the way it did.” Over those three years I have seen no reason to revise this assessment. And I do not see any now. If anything, my thinking has been strengthened by the way in which she is willing to be available to the press – an organisation that her predecessors sought to shun.
She continues to educate the public on legal matters sometimes like a schoolmarm, really trying to get her subject across. She does not come across as someone who knows it all, but her confidence in her grasp of the subject matter being discussed may come across as arrogance to the less discerning.
There is a developing public contention between herself and her Senior Deputy DPP Kathy Ann Pike which underscores an underbelly of discontent at the agency. Public “cass cass” of this nature will not augur well for the agency. I would urge folks to calm the situation down before it escalates into an inferno that certainly will not help anyone. The ODPP is bigger than any personality and will still be around long after persons have died and pushed up their respective daisies, or as I would prefer, petunias.
Having said all this, I look forward to Llewellyn’s continuance in office. This is not a favour being paid to her by the Government as one eminent counsel suggested. It is something she has earned on her own merit and hard work which should not be besmirched.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator and author of the books: Finding Peace in the Midst of Life’s Storms; The Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.