Tue | Nov 24, 2020

Devon Dick | Politicians above the law

Published:Thursday | July 4, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Recently, Donald Trump, president of the United States, told reporters that he would not pardon a soldier who was facing a murder charge, committed in Iraq. Instead, he would allow the case to continue in the courts and after the verdict he would make that decision on whether or not to pardon. That is a remarkable admission. That demonstrates awesome power, especially when it is considered he is disposed to a pardon.

In other words, the court system is in reality just going through the motions because the president of the USA can overturn the court’s ruling. And the president does not have to take into consideration procedural error. The pardon can be granted to a friend or because the convict has influential contacts, or because the pardon can help electoral fortunes.

In addition, the Department of Justice in the USA has a policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Perhaps, this ruling is to allow a president to be unhindered to manage the affairs of the country and not to be bogged down with indictments. It could become difficult for a president to lead if there are frivolous indictments. Furthermore, if a president of the USA is guilty of crimes, he or she can be impeached by political peers. This is not ideal because when it was certain that former president of the USA, Richard Nixon, would be impeached for crimes, he resigned and was pardoned. This arrangement shows that politicians are above the law and not treated like ordinary citizens. In fact, when former heads of state are charged and sometimes convicted, it is when they have left office and are ordinary citizens.

This issue of the political class being above the citizenry is an age-old problem of politicians wanting to be treated differently, and also having the authority to abuse power with no consequence. In the 13th century, the English barons designed a Magna Carta which was to curb the absolute powers of King John who implemented excessive taxation, in addition to misrule. It failed. And kings and other politicians have continued to rule by divine right. It is a belief that politicians have a special right from God and knows what is best for the those who are governed: and the governed sin when they protest against despots. Therefore, politicians demand unquestioned obedience, no challenges to their leadership and constant loyalty. They tend to exercise absolute power, which has a tendency to corrupt absolutely.

In Jamaica, have you noticed that ordinary citizens get charged for using indecent language, but never a politician? What politicians do not use expletives in public? No, it is that they are above the law. One can argue that members of the security forces use ‘bad words’ publicly and no charges. And what of preachers? It can be said that in Jamaica, there is a class issue in which persons in a certain class are above the law. However, politicians are top of the class when it comes to being above the law. Hence, politicians get away with murder, and corruption charges are nine -day wonders with conviction rate very low.

People know that one law for citizens and another for politicians. When will this ever end?

Happy 4th of July to all North Americans.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.