Right decision
Very little has changed in politics since Socrates was wrongfully accused 2,000 years ago
Marisa Dalrymple-Phililbert.

Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert bowed to public pressure by tendering her resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives and Member of Parliament. This is as a result of the eight charges against her — four for breaching the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act and four for breaching the Integrity Commission Act.

The Integrity Commission investigation report states, "She had failed to declare in her statutory filings a motor vehicle she had purchased through a concession afforded to legislators." (p4)

Dalrymple-Philibert's resignation is hailed as the right decision, choosing from all the options that seem right for herself, the Government, and the country in relation to the Integrity Commission investigation report and recommendation for criminal charges.

Stepping down is not an admission of guilt. The resignation was a personal decision, free from bias, emotion, or external pressure — the sword of Damocles that hangs precariously over the head of all who are entrusted with high authority.

A politician's functions are not always a joyride or an easy journey at the best of times. How and where to deploy their talents and their assets, and whom they may employ to help carry out their responsibilities, can never be defined so long as it is not illegal.

The accusation in this case is an omission, a failing to declare a motor vehicle acquired with the assistance of, not through, a concession to which she was legally entitled. She was not hiding the vehicle; it was openly used, licensed, and insured for all to see. Neither did she deny the concession she enjoyed as a legislator.

Sourcing and using the facilities to accommodate what, at times, seem a thankless undertaking can bring jealousy that distorts motivation.

It is fair to say not all conduct in breach of rules for behaviour in public office are punishable as crime. It may be argued no mens rea (a criminal intent) is necessary for absolute offences other than knowingly and deliberately doing what is prohibited. It is not the same for an omission — not doing something that the law explicitly requires to be done. This failure requires an evil intent in order to convict a particular defendant of a particular crime, especially where the omission can be easily corrected without any damage being done.

The Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act is to prevent crime not create crime. Only a bad law can invent a predicament of crime from an omission that is a failure to declare, nothing more, a benefit or the result of a benefit an accused person is legally entitled to enjoy, or make it a matter of integrity or lack thereof without something more in the accusation.

The prosecution will have difficulty proving the mens rea, an evil intent or wrongful enrichment for the explicit charges or any other offence identified in the report. The real problem is the allegations may serve to arouse public opinion to something sinister by implication.

The resignation of Dalrymple-Philibert as Member of Parliament and Speaker because of the Integrity Commission investigation report accusing her of criminal charges for her failure to declare a motor vehicle and nothing more, dreadful as they are for her reputation and for the people she represents, the consequences are not as deadly compared to what Socrates endured from his predicament of being wrongfully accused.

Socrates' execution by the Athenians is not caused by the explicit charges of impiety and corrupting the youth, but rather by implicit political motivations which come to a head in 399 BCE. (Wrongfully accused, David Bowles, abstract Hirundo: The McGill Journal for Classical Studies, page 1, Volume 5, 2006/2007)

After more than 2,000 years of politics, the more things change, the more they remain the same for those with authority to make charges.

Read The Gleaner's editorial, 'The Speaker's obligation', of September 26, 2023: "If, as expected, Juliet Holness is elected Parliament's Speaker today she will have an opportunity, and obligation, to rescue the role from the disaster into which it has descended in recent times.

"That, however, will require also a capacity for empathy, a deep commitment to fairness, and, critically, an appreciation that the job lifts her — or ought to — above the partisan fray.

"In that regard, Ms Holness... has to embrace and internalise an idea that her predecessor, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, clearly failed to grasp during her there years in the chair, which cost her the full respect of the House and large swathes of external observers...

"With respect to the speakership, Dalrymple-Philibert's failure was her inability to cross the psychological hurdle from being a Member of Parliament for the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to being Speaker.

"The latter role demands impartiality, if not neutrality, which she didn't manage."

The reader is given an assurance that the editorial represents the opinion of The Gleaner, all showing the partisan motivation of the Speaker. With such an assurance, Socrates might not have been wrongfully accused on trumped-up charges.

Her resignation was said to be under the weight of accusations by the Integrity Commission that she lied in her income, assets and liabilities fillings. There being no impeachment process for what is said to be a lie, an assiduous investigator went back eight years for his Eureka moment, finding a lie for criminal accusations.

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