Al­le­ga­tions Not the Same as Con­vic­tions!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Neville Cenac

Gos­sip and spec­u­la­tion have never been the equiv­a­lent of a con­vic­tion. Nei­ther al­le­ga­tions, so of­ten laced with self-serv­ing prej­u­dice. The mere say-so of a per­son can­not, in jus­tice, af­fect the life or rep­u­ta­tion of an­other - for one’s honour is one’s life and ex­tends to the whole fam­ily, a very se­ri­ous mat­ter, in­deed. Our rep­u­ta­tion is our dig­nity, a be­lief val­ued and af­firmed by us in the Con­sti­tu­tion, ap­pear­ing next to the first state­ment re­gard­ing our “faith in the supremacy of the Almighty God.”

The balm which emerges out of that Con­sti­tu­tion can­not be washed away by a court of pub­lic opin­ion, though part of our won­der­ful democ­racy. Saint Lu­cia is not Cromwell’s “Star Cham­ber”, Hitler’s Ger­many or Stalin’s Rus­sia where tri­als were a mere sham. The process we em­ploy dic­tates that a man “should not be made to suf­fer ex­cept for a dis­tinct breach of the law”, a prin­ci­ple we have fed and sus­tained since the es­tab­lish­ment of our Courts of Jus­tice in 1859 and the Mag­is­trate’s Court in 1888.

Were we to de­part from that sa­cred prin­ci­ple by treat­ing an al­le­ga­tion as a con­vic­tion, no one would be safe, from the Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral to the Prime Min­is­ter, to the Chief Jus­tice, to the Arch­bishop, down to the beg­gar who, too, needs a good name, “the im­me­di­ate jewel of the soul”.

Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet’s de­ci­sion not to act on state­ments in the wind and else­where is, there­fore, as sound as a bell. Only af­ter a Court of Jus­tice has ex­tracted the grain from the husk, as it were, and dis­tilled the truth from all the ev­i­dence in the black­mail case would the Prime Min­is­ter and his Cab­i­net have a case to an­swer or not. Should the ev­i­dence dis­close con­duct un­be­com­ing of a min­is­ter, then, and only then, would there be cause for con­cern.

In the mean­time, the vig­i­lant Min­is­ter for Jus­tice should en­deav­our to has­ten a speedy trial so that the mat­ter in­volv­ing a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter does not de­gen­er­ate into a long pub­lic trial.

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