Mon | Mar 27, 2023

Public servants under pressure

Published:Tuesday | March 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

Public servants have been coming under intense pressure over the past few weeks, mainly from the office of the Contractor General. I am, however, unable to summon the energy to condemn one of our most efficient and effective ministers for deceiving the Cabinet when the said Cabinet insists it was not deceived.

Nor am I inclined to see an effective and efficient commissioner of customs walk away from his job because he did not require the Government to withdraw funds from its account one day, and lodge those funds back in the account the next day in order to buy cars it already owns.

I hold no brief for Harold Brady. The last time we spoke, we were in the same hall of residence, his hair was a different colour and his area of competence was hockey. I am not privy to who said what to whom. But as certain matters unfold, it is obvious that if he recommended that the government get additional legal assistance, it was good advice. If he recommended Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, it was a very good choice. Not just because they have an impressive clientele and posted '09 revenues in excess of $2.3 billion (in our currency), but the founder and several senior partners of this 400-plus strong law firm were former diplomats, congressmen and lobbyists. Transparency does not extend to showing your opponent the cards you have in your hand and it is hypocritical to demand this of any government. One flaw that may well be fatal for this administration is that its actions, timing and utterances seem to be predicated on the anticipated spin the Opposition is likely to put on its decisions.

United States plays by its own rules

The United States plays by its own rules and is not averse to shifting the goalposts when the game is not going its way. Take the case of United States v Alvarez-Machain (91-712), 504 US 655 (1992). Dr Alvarez-Machain was a citizen and resident of Mexico. Like Bruce Golding, the Mexican government had the temerity to hesitate when an extradition request was made. So the good doctor was abducted and dragged to the United States for trial. In the above-mentioned case, the US Supreme Court held that "... the fact of respondent's forcible abduction does not prohibit his trial in a US court for violations of this country's criminal laws". It further held that the treaty with Mexico was silent on the issue of abductions. It was. But the reason for this is that it is not permissible under long-standing customary norms for one state to send its agents to seize an individual located in the territory of another state without the consent of the government of that state. There was widespread international condemnation, but the trial proceeded. If I were asked, I would advise Mr Dudus not to go swimming at the beach until his matter is settled.

Last year, an American citizen was tried and sentenced in a foreign country. Immediately, diplomatic initiatives were put in high gear. A plane and a popular president were dispatched to escort this US citizen back to the land of the free. Sadly, we do not place the same value on our citizens. For as far as I can remember, we do not feel the necessity to go the extra mile in the protection of our brothers and sisters. If that were so, a culture would have developed that would, by this, provide the skills in the Attorney General's Department to handle these matters competently. The Government needs help and advice. So what is wrong with that?

If - for the first time, at last - our Government decides to be rigorous and vigorous in the defence of its citizens, regardless of creed or constituency - it should be supported in the steps it takes to achieve this objective.

I am, etc.,


Stony Hill, Kingston 9