Take highway issue to the courts
The removal of the camp-site and protesters of the Highway Re-route Movement in Debe has triggered a wave of opinion on how the executive, police and defence forces have acted.
People both supportive of and against the protesters have expressed dismay at the heavy-handed State action used.
For my own part, whatever one's views about the protester's cause there is one sentence from history that is both wisdom and warning for those who wield the executive power of the State: "Be [you] never so high, the law is above you"- Dr Thomas Fuller 1773.
What is the relevance of this to the removal of the protesters? The answer is in the Constitution ,Section 4(e), (i) and (j) which enshrines the rights to express political views, freedom of thought and expression and most relevantly, freedom of association and assembly.
As such it does not take a lawyer to realise that the right to peaceful protest is not to be cast aside because the executive disagrees with the cause that gives rise to it. This fundamental truth is the one that if not observed leaves the public open to abuse by the executive who can ride roughshod over what may be an important cause. The right to protect one's home and community from unfair change without proper consultation and review is one such important cause.
What then was the alternative to moving the protesters by force?
The alternative was quite simple. All persons and organisations, including the executive, have the right to access justice through the courts.
The executive should have made, if they felt they had grounds to do so, a claim for possession of the lands occupied by the protesters and an injunction.
Indeed the courts are well versed in land law, bearing in mind the number of possession claims it has heard over the years, and were thus singularly well placed to decide the issue after hearing both sides of the argument.
There was no reason this lawful option could not have been pursued, which begs the question now was there some reason that lawful means could not be pursued or was a claim for possession doomed to fail? Is this why a review in a public court was considered inappropriate?
What precedent has been set by this? The presence of Minister Warner and junior minister Partap as members of the executive apparently overseeing the removal of protesters on the basis that these protesters were illegally occupying State lands sets an example for others. In short they have sent the message that where lands are unlawfully occupied, irrespective of the occupier's rights, the owner of the lands can take action to remove them without recourse to the courts.
For many land owners this will be welcome.
Why should land- owners approach the Courts anymore than the State? To adopt the reported comment of Attorney General Ramlogan "compensation [might] be minuscule as compared to what [one would otherwise] have had to pay out".
Coming from an AG, who was a specialist public law practitioner, the rule of law does seem to have been conveniently sidestepped.
Minister Warner has gone one better in stating "If any laws have been breached, then there are ways of having that resolved."
This would seem to suggest that even if the State's action was outside of the law in removing the protesters, the protesters are expected to act within the law in seeking a remedy.
For many the double standard is easy to see.