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Stabroek News

Time to resolve the Vasciannie imbroglio
published: Tuesday | November 20, 2007

Professor Stephen Vasciannie is a usually mild-mannered man of profound intellect. He broke all kinds of academic records in high school at Kingston College and at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar.

Professor Vasciannie, however, does occasionally betray a sharp tongue, or perhaps, more correctly, a biting pen. And there are, perhaps, too, those who, with tongues lodged less than firmly in cheek, may accuse him of a certain lack of political judgement.

He was once a leading member of that inert political organisation, the National Democratic Movement, which was formed and led by thecurrent Jamaican Prime Minister, Bruce Golding. Indeed, when Mr. Golding returned to the Jamaica Labour Party, which is now in government, Professor Vasciannie described the event as something akin to throwing a dead cat on to the deck of a ship. He went on to recount his own reasons for distancing himself from the NDM, including an assertion that long before his public rapprochement with the JLP, Mr. Golding was in negotiations with the then opposition party without being truthful and upfront with his NDM colleagues.

More recently, Professor Vasciannie, having applied for the post, was recommended by the Public Service Commission, which is the competent authority for such matters those who would spin have let it dribble out that it was the majority of the members of the PSC who endorsed Professor Vasciannie for the job.

As it as turned out, Mr. Golding has exercised his constitutional right as PM in asking the PSC to review its recommendation. The commissioners have apparently held their ground, which, on the face of it, should mean that the appointment should go forward. Mr. Golding, it appears, now wants to fire the lot, ostensibly for misbehaviour how they have misbehaved, in the context of the Constitution, has not been made clear.

What is particularly disingenuous about the arguments is the attempt of the Government's spin doctors to cast their rejection of Professor Vasciannie not in political/personality terms, but one of experience, or lack thereof. They claim, as did the Attorney-General, that Professor Vasciannie does not practise at the Bar, suggesting, therefore, that he lacks court craft - as if he is a criminal defence lawyer intending to win over juries by dramatics.

We would have expected that what we would want from our Solicitor General is someone steeped in the understanding of the law, in its philosophy and application; someone capable of developing cogent and coherent legal arguments which maintain high principle while pursuing the interest of those he represents; who, ultimately, are the people of Jamaica. In this regard, there is little to question about Professor Vasciannie.

This matter, however, demands honesty, which is the basis of the governance promised by Mr. Golding. If the PM has political concerns about Dr. Vasciannie and wishes to recant from his pledge of inclusiveness, he should say so. As it is, Mr. Golding is expending political capital, which may meet short-term expediency but which, over the long term, he can ill-afford.

But then again, Mr. Golding may be willing to fire the PSC on grounds of misbehaviour every time he disagrees with one of their appointments.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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