Bar Association Condemns Attack On Judiciary

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The Council of the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Association has taken note of a widely-circulated WhatsApp message alleged to be authored by the Prime Minister, which the Prime Minister has not confirmed. The message, said to be addressed to Asot Michael, Member of Parliament for the Constituency of St. Peter, accused the MP of corruption going back 25 years, which he has denied. The message specifically accused the MP of corruptly paying the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to protect him in the IHI Investigation into the theft of public funds. The DPP has issued a strong denial of this allegation.

 

The mandate of the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Association, as outlined in section 5 of the Legal Profession Act, 2008, includes the following:

 

…(c) protect and assist the public in Antigua and Barbuda in all matters relating to law

 

(f) promote, maintain and support the administration of justice and the rule of law

 

  • provide an ongoing public education program on basic issues of law and current legislation It is on this basis that the Council makes the following statements on this issue.

 

  1. Members of Parliament and the government must never seek to undermine the judiciary and legal system in Antigua and Barbuda. No citizen or resident should ever do this. The Council denounces the impugning of the office of Director of Public Prosecution without providing any evidence of wrongdoing by the DPP. Citizens, particularly those in high office, should not use the ease of social media to make quick, tit-for-tat, unfounded allegations. The Council notes with concern the increasing tendency to make such allegations via social media, perhaps because these allegations do not appear to attract much legal actions and remedies. If any citizen or resident, member of government, parliament and the opposition has evidence of corruption and wrongdoing by another, the proper action is to refer the matter or cause the matter to be referred to the police authorities for investigation. The police then ought to carry out an investigation into the matter.

 

 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Antigua & Barbuda Bar Association~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

 

 

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA BAR ASSOCIATION

 

Lenworth Johnson, President (email: [email protected])

 

Luann DeCosta, Secretary (email: [email protected])

 

 

 

 

  1. One of the major principles of our system of government is the separation of powers of the three branches of government, that is, Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary. The principle states that while the three branches are expected to work together for the good of the country, each branch is separate and must act as a check on the other. For example, if a citizen or resident feels aggrieved by an act of the Executive, he or she may take his case to the courts (the Judiciary) for adjudication of the matter. If a private citizen or resident feels aggrieved by an act of another private citizen or resident, he or she may take his case to the police authorities (in criminal matters) or to the courts (in civil matters). A good example of this in civil matters is the law of defamation, which is the lowering of a person (besmirching his character) in the eyes of right-thinking members of society by social media or otherwise.

 

  1. The Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda carries out a special role in society. They enforce the laws of the country, particularly the criminal laws. To do this they may be forced to detain and arrest persons, deprive them of their liberty, and in many cases charge and bring them up for trial before the Judiciary. Even though administratively the Police may be considered part of the Executive, it is imperative that they act independently of the Executive when carrying out their investigative role and bringing charges against citizens and residents. This is to prevent abuse and oppression by those high up in authority, for an individual’s liberty is sacrosanct under our Constitution. The government must never at any time be seen to order the police, or give the impression that the Police does its bidding to harass, lock up and prosecute persons in the society. This is wrong and unacceptable in a democratic society and it undermines confidence in law enforcement and the legal system. The Council condemns any attempt by the government or any actor in the government, Prime Minister or otherwise, to influence the police to re-open any criminal investigation of any person or to cause the prosecution of any individual. For the avoidance of doubt, a member of government may refer a matter to the police, for example, suspicion of theft at a government ministry or theft of public funds, but then it is solely for the police to investigate and charge the appropriate person, without pressure or prompting from the government or actor in the government.

 

 

 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Antigua & Barbuda Bar Association~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

 

 

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA BAR ASSOCIATION

 

Lenworth Johnson, President (email: [email protected])

 

Luann DeCosta, Secretary (email: [email protected])

 

 

 

 

  1. The DPP, when carrying out his public duties, is obligated to act independently of the government or any actor in the government. This is enshrined in section 88(5) of our Constitution which provides that, in the exercise of the powers vested in him, the DPP is not subject to the direction or control of any person or authority. The only exceptions (section 89) are in relation to any laws relating to official secrets, mutiny or incitement to mutiny, or an offence under any law relating to any right or obligation of Antigua and Barbuda under international law.

 

The Bar Council is acutely aware of the ease at which allegations of corruption can be made; without evidence; and the news and fanfare such allegations regularly attract. While we stand ready to support anyone who provides credible evidence of such corruption, and also support any police investigation into such evidence, we roundly condemn such allegations being used as political fodder. The integrity of our judicial officers should never be questioned without providing actual evidence of wrongdoing, as it is clear that such allegations reinforce the lack of confidence in the judicial system as a whole. Further, such allegations made without evidence are extremely difficult to defend against and makes restoring public trust in our judicial officers a near-impossible task. We would strongly urge all political actors, especially those holding public office, to refrain from attacking the judiciary, whether overtly or subtly. Our country cannot function properly without a strong, fair and independent legal system. Undermining trust in that legal system as part of the political back-and-forth, will only serve to hinder our progress as a nation.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Bar Association,

    While your pen still seems to be working. Could you pen a strong letter to the powers that be quoting sections and subsections of the constitution as it pertains to the disgusting detention area / lockup at St. John’s police station. Your team members visit the facility almost daily earning a decent living from citizens and residents detained there. I’m sure your team members would have heard many complaints.

    Help make positive changes and stop the useless press releases.

    • You know, this is a pet peeve of mine, and for as long as the association is around, I’ve noticed that they tend to have a habit of cherry picking what they speak about publically!

      If it affects them, either personally or professionally, they find the inkwell real fast to write something.

      Just a waste of time institution they are!

  2. The People are supreme, and the People have every right to question anything and everything. Nobody is a law unto themselves. All must answer to the People who are their employers. This is a democracy. We are free to question anything and everything and everyone.

    • And since this is a democracy everyone has equal rights. So too are those who are allegedly accused.

      • @ From the Sideline
        Yes Antigua is a democracy and when allegations are made that threaten the integrity of the justice system and when members of parliament are accusing each other of corruption, and one saying he has the documentation, we need an independent investigation.
        Antigua also needs to be rid of the Labour Party. We need new people running The country.
        Appears Gaston has no intention of being voted out of office. He is literally begging non nationals with gaps who don’t qualify to be regularized . And I am sure I heard him say, maybe on Point FM, that he is going to his parliament to make parliament responsible for issuing citizenships rather than the courts. Can this man be trusted? Soon Antigua will be overrun by all kinds of non Antiguans who just happen to qualify to vote in the next election. Wake up Antigua and get rid of the cabal we have for a government.

        • Given what you just say about how one can achieve Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship tells me you’re not an Antiguan and Barbudan and furthermore you have no clue about it. Just read our laws and constitution and you’ll be educated about that.
          It seems that people like you forget we have just two years ago voted in a free and fair general election and we overwhelmingly voted the ABLP party lead by Gaston Browne for a second term in office. Still it seems you guys are hoping for another election soonest. Well the PM has said again it will come like a thief in the night. So make sure you guys are ready.

  3. Bar association
    Are you going to investigate the WhatsApp message to determine the author? Serious allegations were made and an investigation needs to be done and the author needs to provide evidence or be charged.
    Antigua has become what appears to be a lawless society where the PM and a minister can level serious accusations against each other and no investigation is done into these charges? These accusations have made it to WhatsApp for the whole to see. We need an investigation and we need it now for reputation of our country.

  4. Didn’t ANR publish a news item some time ago referencing WORSHIPFUL MASTER Lenworth Johnson as a member of Waladli Lodge No. 9887 E.C.??

    So is the Bar Association and said Lodge one and the same? Has the Bar Association been infiltrated by the wearers of the purple apron and the ring with the compass and the square?

    Who really controls the Bar Association?

  5. Another politically charged organization that rather to investigate the authenticity of the Whatsapp jumps to response to the content of it. So in the end if it proves to be fake what will they have to say for themselves?

    • FROM THE SIDELINE do you really live in Antigua? Do you think the Bar Association is a politically charged organization? In fact, I am surprised a statement was actually made by the Association. I will leave you to figure out the import of my post.

      • Tabor, I always charge you for not being objective. The BAR Association may not be political as a body. But I’m sure they didn’t call the membership for their input when they penned the letter on the Association’s Letterhead and in the Associations Name. Cause I can call many Labour Party member who are not in agreement with the letter that has gone out. But just look who send out the letter. The President a former UPP minister. Run once and thereafter fled the scene when he lost. Couldn’t take the heat. Remember him in a meeting with Allen Stanford when Allen promised the government US$25million to build a school of excellence. Well the good gentleman thought Allen would just write him a check. When he was told to get an Architect to do the drawing and get and estimate and to start allocating a parcel of land where he want to build the school, then he got itchy and dropped the ball. Suddenly he was not interested in the school any longer.
        Let me take you back to memory lane just a year ago. The government called for a referendum to chose between the CCJ and the Privy council. Do you remember all the vicious attacked to the character of the judiciary. How they are corrupt and cannot be trusted cause they are under the influence of the politician. That my friend was slander of the highest order and it was done my mainly people associated with the UPP. And some lawyers condone that talk also. I didn’t hear the BAR association came out and defended the Judiciary. It was the AG that has stood up and to his credit QC Justin Simon who apologized to the good gentleman from the CCJ for the filthy display of disrespect that was meted out to him and the entire judiciary. I never felt more ashamed of my blackness. This what Asot published or made available for public consumption is refutable. It can never be proven to be authentic coming from the PM. And it can also be edited. And since the author is unknown and cannot be verified the BAR not the DPP had no reason to respond to it.
        By the way to you remember the previous DPP. Cumberbatch. Do you remember how he was replaced because the UPP didn’t like how he was handling the IHI case. That was pure intervention of the politicians with the independence of the office of the DPP. Yet they had the AG. press on and wrote to the court that they had no confidence in the DPP and wish to have him replaced. Anther time when the BAR remained very quiet. Not a drum was heard. So you guys just give me break. I know what I say when I say this is a politically bias organization. And this letter was penned because of the politics. Nothing less.

    • @Sideline. You gotta be kidding! The Bar Association a pilitical organization? A sleeping one maybe but this they are right on the ball. You know, over the years when people like myself speak on the IHI, people like you cried politics! Well as you can see know we are not a set of crazies but we have a long history of seeing corruption no matter how hard it is spun, how many ‘minions’ try to defend it, and how much time has elapsed.
      By the way, its time dor the PM to break his silence with a good defence because I sense RESIGNATION here.

  6. You would wish it was FAKE.There were certain words used in the WhatsApp. That I have heard uttered by the author of that WhatsApp on a Radio Station repeatedly.Some of us write the way we speak. We used certain words to frame our sentences.

  7. And this authored by members who are long associated with a certain brother-hood that protects each other at all cost and have been alleged to corrupt the very judiciary in defence of members and associates. Please!!!!

  8. Will at least we know now that a Bar Association still exists in Antigua and Barbuda! There have been so many instances involving ordinary people who have been caught up in legal issues which could be easily avoided or solved by an active and relevant Bar Association but which have been totally ignored. Perhaps weekly or even monthly utterances from this elite group of money grabbers on a variety of legal issues could go a long way in teaching the masses about their rights and responsibilities.
    Take for example. Ordinary Joe Blow says to Jane Doe, “I believe that Governor Parke is a ucorrupt and thieving politician who pays the commissioner to keep him quiet. ” Jane Doe then proceeds to air to all and sundry – to a public idle and eager to tear down rather than build up. Against whom should the commissioner in question direct his ire? To Joe Blow who expressed a private opinion to Jane Doe, whether verbal or written, or against Jane Doe who chose to pass on this opinion to the public with deliberate intent to create mayhem?
    Simulated or real scenarios like this one could serve as good discussion points by a bar association…… where one exists.

  9. Well, Sir Gerald was right about these folks. Useless association.

    Just come with their verbose but empty press releases that clearly none of the MPs care about and nothing comes of it.

    Remember when the Chief Justice said there were attempts to interfere from “surprising” quarters. But no one was ever named and apparently nothing was done??

    Welcome to the justice system.

  10. Where is the bar associations commitment to protect the people from governmental abuse? The enacting of ’emergency powers’ for extended periods of time seems to be an abuse of government power.

    Why hasn’t your organization objected to this obvious power grab. Why haven’t any of your membership filing a class action law suit in the name of the people of Antigua?

    Are there no patriots in Antigua?

  11. Listen to the PM on Point FM on Saturday October 3, and hear what he said about going to parliament to allow parliament to grant citizenships.
    By the way I am a bred and born Antiguan. Where in Antigua were you born?
    We hope for new elections sooner rather than later. The next time probably Antiguans will wake up and rid Antigua of this scandalous, corrupt and thieving organization called the ABLP, led by a psychopath.
    With this party it is just one scandal after another and all has to do with corruption and thief of the country’s resources. Bird island, as the other Caribbean countries call us, has become a pariah nation.

    • It is all well to make baseless claims. Now support them with some facts. Name the scandals under the Gaston Browne administration and I’ll name you the scandals under the UPP. Fair enough.
      And once again. Your passport doesn’t say Nationality Antiguan. It says Antiguan and Barbudan. So that is what you are.

  12. This same Gaston Browne threatened the police brass just because they complained about the deplorable conditions of the police stations. The police brass had to apologize for speaking the truth.antigua has a leader that needs to be rained in by being kicked out of office,

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