A rotten state of affairs
That it has taken ten years to identify a fatal flaw in the integrity investigation and subsequent prosecution of former prime minister Basdeo Panday must stir fresh outrage against the authorities, found yet again to have dangerously and expensively bungled.
Magistrate Marcia Murray's finding of misconduct by the Integrity Commission is a damning indictment of several vital institutions involved in the dispensation of justice.That wrong-doing of such a serious nature could be perpetrated from within the heart of the very institution established to protect and uphold the highest values in public life is testimony to the rotten state of affairs in this country.
The magistrate minced no words in denouncing the Commission, declaring that in stopping the case, she was acting to "protect the integrity of the criminal justice system'' since "the misconduct of the Integrity Commission was so serious that it would undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system and bring it into disrepute".
This misconduct had succeeded not only in damaging the political career of a former prime minister but in committing an egregious disservice to the public interest in upholding the law.
This is not an issue from which we should be content to just walk away. If public trust is to be restored, all parties to this disaster must be called to account starting with the then attorney general Glenda Morean, the Integrity Commission, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the police Fraud Squad and the expensive legal team headed by a high-priced British QC. Questions remain to be asked, as well, about the ruling against Mr Panday by Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls.
On the financial impact level, how long are the burdened taxpayers of this country to keep paying the heavy price of professional ineptitude, political witch-hunting and rank amateurism that passes for management in almost every one of our institutions?
But the financial soaking on citizens may be the lesser of the damage. As Magistrate Murray pointed out, the more deleterious is the impact on public confidence in the integrity of the justice system as a whole.
In commenting on the denial of Mr Panday's right to due process, Magistrate Murray described the substance of the charges as the "fruit of a poisoned tree which was the product of the Integrity Commission's misconduct", adding that had it not been for such misconduct, the proceedings would not have arisen.
This comment leaves us with the baffling question of "why?'' Why was Mr Panday not afforded the right to answer to a tribunal as provided by law? Was this a sin of omission or commission?
Five years ago, in quashing the conviction and six-year sentence on Mr Panday, the Appeal Court ruled the conviction "unsafe" on the grounds of apparent bias.
The integrity of the Integrity Commission itself, and the judicial system that supports its work, require that we get to the root of what really happened in the Panday case.