Yet another indication of the absurdity and more of the premature and partial proclamation of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act has come in the form of a Cabinet decision to revoke the decision to have the legislation come into force from today. Little information has come from the Ministry of Justice and or the Cabinet on why the plans to operationalise the act have been scrapped.
In the absence of a full accounting, the citizen must presume that the law-enforcement agencies are unprepared to manage the legislation and caseload that would come with it. This revelation takes the issue back to the debates and agreements in both houses of the Parliament at the end of 2011. Then it was clear to all that it would take two to three years to put the infrastructure in place to allow the law to be effectively and efficiently implemented.
Yet by August 2012, eight months after acknowledging the long time-line required and the sophisticated infrastructure needed to make the law operational, the Cabinet nevertheless took the bizarre decision to prematurely proclaim one small but potentially far-reaching part of the legislation. It is far from surprising that now there is the barest minimum of explanation from the Government, in the first instance, about why January 2, 2013 is no longer the implementation date.
To give a full explanation of the reasons for the postponement would further expose the barrenness of the rationale given in August by the prime minister, her Attorney General, the cabinet and the justice minister. The new justice minister, Christlyn Moore, though untainted by the controversy that brought to a premature end the tenure of her predecessor, Herbert Volney, has not been forthcoming about the progress of the preparations for the implementation of the act, or the reasons why that has now been postponed.
Very significant and also requiring of an explanation is the role played by Chief Justice Ivor Archie and the rest of the judiciary in agreeing to the January dateline for implementation, when it must have been clear that, given all that had to be done, meeting the January deadline was unrealistic. The judiciary is an independent arm of government, but that does not mean it is not answerable in any way.
Chief Justice Archie now has a responsibility to tell the country why he agreed to the January 2 deadline in the first place and what are the factors that have militated against setting up the necessary court infrastructure in good time. Are there issues of financing and administration? The Chief Justice must now tell the country, not simply whisper it in the collective ear of the cabinet.
What are the needs? Do they have to do with the insufficiency of trained and experienced human resources? Physical space in the courts? Funding? And how long—realistically—will it take to put them in place? Citizens have a right to be informed about how the institutions of the State are performing the jobs they were given, and to know who or what is responsible for their shortcomings.
Once again, it is clear that the Section 34 fiasco is not over by any means, and that still more answers are required. And once again, the institutions of government appear to be demonstrating that they are yet to understand the true meaning of the openness, transparency and accountability that they promise, yet repeatedly fail to deliver.