Senator Anthony Vieira has compromised the independence of the Judiciary and violated the entrenched principle of separation of powers by bringing senior jurists into his senseless squabble with the Opposition.
In a most astounding declaration, Senator Vieira told the Upper House on Tuesday November 23rd that he received WhatsApp messages from two Court of Appeal judges condemning members of the Opposition, who are practitioners at the Bar.
This is a most disturbing utterance since it suggests that Judges of the Court of Appeal have adopted prejudicial positions against the Opposition, specifically members who appear in politically sensitive matters.
Members of the United National Congress Opposition are currently representing parties in matters which may ultimately be heard by judges of the Court of Appeal. Likewise, there are parties before the court whose opponents are represented by Senator Vieira who claims to have a special relationship with certain judges, with privileged access to them via his Whatsapp where he discusses political matters with them. How can these litigants feel confidence in the judicial system?
The separation of powers demands that Judges remain above the political fray. They are called upon to adjudicate on politically sensitive matters including breaches of the Constitution by the Government and election petitions. Vieira’s slip of the tongue is no simple faux pas. If true, it speaks to an entrenched political bias in the system itself. It also reveals that people like him have privileged access and special relationships with judges before whom they appear. This can create the perception that he and his clients could secretly receive undue preferential treatment and favours.
The maxim that justice must not only be done but must also be seen to done has been breached by Vieira’s inappropriate, improper and scandalous Whatsapp conversations that have now drawn senior judges into the political arena. He has single-handedly cast a shadow of political suspicion and doubt over the entire Court of Appeal and he has a duty to make full and frank disclosure and name these judges who hold such political views, instead of damaging the reputations of all the members of the Court.
Failure to do so will see him hoisted on his own petard of morality and good behaviour. He will be guilty of far worse if he seeks to protect his secret relationship with these judges.
Senator Vieira has damaged public confidence in judicial officers by his reckless statements aimed to denigrating the Opposition. Judges should always be above reproach, and Senator Vieira, in his hare-brained attempt to sully the image of the Opposition, has brought respected judges into the partisan political fray.
I strenuously condemn Senator Vieira’s reckless and vile attempt to bring the justice system into his absurd political fight, just as much as I denounce his baseless motion.
In his scattershot presentation, he also made unfounded allegations against Opposition Senators, childishly mocked others and used unparliamentary, distasteful and offensive language, under the cover of parliamentary immunity and with well-rounded support of the PNM who followed suit.
His parliamentary motion has resulted in a gross waste of time by the Upper House at a time when Trinidad and Tobago is in the midst of its worst economic and social turmoil, as a result of an incompetent and authoritarian PNM regime.
I strongly urge Senator Vieira to withdraw his thoughtless and desperate remarks and to apologise to the Judiciary or identify the judicial officers who have expressed these sentiments so that their political bias would be known and declared.
I also recommend that he take his senatorial duties seriously and hold to account a Government that has inflicted hardship and suffering upon the population instead of pursuing his personal agenda to impose his concept of decorum on the elected Opposition.
Jayanti Rachel Lutchmedial