Justice for our judges
Serious issue must be taken with the priorities of an administration that would spend millions on hiring foreign Queen's Counsel to support the office of the Attorney General while neglecting the long-standing remuneration issues affecting the judges of Trinidad and Tobago.
It is clear that this has become a matter of desperation for Chief Justice Ivor Archie. In his address at the opening of the new law term, CJ Archie got down to brass tacks in declaring that judges are facing "Hi-Lo and PriceSmart at 2012 prices" while being paid on 2008 salaries.
We hope that those with the responsibility for dragging their feet on this issue would have had the decency to at least squirm in their seats for this is a truly shameful state of affairs.
Indeed, it is made worse by the fact that the CJ was repeating the complaint for the second year running, having made no progress in the interim. This, despite having submitted to the Salaries Review Commission (SRC), as requested, the results of a comprehensive compensation review exercise.
According to him, despite its submission, the SRC has since informed him that it has embarked on a similar exercise with its own consultant and has invited the judiciary to send a representative to be a part of this new review committee.
As the Chief Justice has pointed out, such frustrations not only affect the quality of lives of the judges themselves who must face the market like everyone else, but the very dispensation of justice itself.
It is unthinkable that in an issue so germane to the quality of justice and, therefore, of life in Trinidad and Tobago, bureaucratic foot-dragging could even enter the picture.
When the CJ spoke last year, this was already a matter of urgency, which, one presumes, is why he felt compelled to go public on it. How then does the SRC explain its decision to, essentially, re-engage the process from scratch? If there is some reasonable explanation, the people of Trinidad and Tobago would certainly like to hear it. This is no private matter to be handled between the SRC and the Chief Justice's office, but one of potentially profound impact on every citizen's right to justice.
We shudder to think that the CJ would have to return to this very vexing problem in accounting for his stewardship next year. We, therefore, urge the SRC and the Judicial and Legal Service Commission to prioritise the resolution of this matter before it gets to the point of frustration where judges feel they need to make a point to those holding the nation's purse strings. The CJ's suggestion of an interim payment would be a useful place from which to begin.
The loss of dignity in public life is bad enough as it is; it must not be allowed to spread to the judiciary.