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Public office and silence

Monday, December 4, 2017

Chief Justice Ivor Archie has chosen to remain silent on another issue which has cast a shadow over his office. As the T&T Guardian reported on Friday, the council of the Law Association is deliberating whether it should write to the Prime Minister on the question of impeachment. The debate follows the call from a sitting judge for Archie to clarify allegations now in the public domain. We acknowledge it is against judicial protocol for judges to engage with the media and similar groups on matters like these, but at this point, no one knows if there has been any improper conduct, nor does anyone seem to know where the majority of the Judiciary stands on this case. While debate has been opened on whether Section 137 of the Constitution can be invoked, a group of unidentified judges is reportedly preparing to take out an ad defending Archie.

Archie, an astute legal mind, has opted for the kind of silence that avoids further conflict, but places the rest of the Judiciary and the country in the dark. This, however, is no longer just a matter for interest groups and judicial stakeholders. It deserves clarity for the benefit of the average person who looks to the office for independence and integrity.

This newspaper believes there is a duty on the part of public officials to dispel comments in the public space which tend to undermine their office. We believe persons who hold public office should account for their conduct at some point in time.

Managing crisis

It is routine in large companies today to have a department devoted to communications. From time to time, the department is called to manage a crisis. Sometimes it does it well, but just as often it does poorly.

In the case of Angostura and the sexual harassment allegations against its chairman, Dr Rolph Balgobin, the company’s communications department has not had a chance to prove its worth. This is because the distiller’s management seems to know better.

In seeming to know better, it appointed a retired judge to investigate the claims of harassment made by a senior female executive. Without interviewing the accuser or the accused, the chairman was cleared.

Management then terminated the accuser for alleged non-performance. As reported in the Sunday Guardian, her dismissal was preceded by advice to Angostura that concluded that the executive was entitled to almost $14 million for loss of future earnings and reputation, mental and emotional trauma. She is now suing the company. Angostura’s management has kept Mr Balgobin in place.

Now that campaigns have been launched against the company for what transpired, management may find out just how much the public cares about the issue. Enough to consider avoiding its products? Or just enough to “steups” every time its ads come on?

Well done Joseph

He dropped out of school at the age of 16 to support his family. Today, 29-year-old Joseph Gaskin owns a successful marine general maintenance company. He told our business team in yesterday’s paper that his goal is to leave a legacy for his children. This young father and business owner inspires us to hope. There are good stories to tell in this country, and we’ll continue to look out for them.


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