Are some more deserving of natural justice?

Social Transformation Minister Harold Dalson: Has he washed his hands of all responsibility for taking public allegations to their proper conclusion?

Social Transformation Minister Harold Dalson: Has he washed his hands of all responsibility for taking public allegations to their proper conclusion?

If only the government was as serious about its better days of jobs-jobs-jobs pre-election pledge as it professes to be about fulfilling its campaign promise to bring to book alleged miscreants that for five years had benefitted illegally from Taiwanese financial assistance!

Then again, what to make of the fact that its Review of Financial Operations of Town, Village and Rural Councils had made its publication debut on, of all places, the prime minister’s press secretary’s Facebook account? Is her boss altogether oblivious of the latest assessment reports that declare Facebook an Internet garbage dump for bitterness and hate?

In any event, having thus made public its document headed “Private & Confidential” did the government muddy up the waters of fair play by denying the several citizens mentioned, or otherwise fingered, the basic legal principle of natural justice?

I am reminded of another controversial document that purported in 2006 to be the result of an investigation at the behest of the Kenny Anthony administration into presumed suspect behavior on the part of a high-ranking police officer. Immediately following the Labour Party’s election loss that year, the new justice minister—whose hardly cordial relationship with certain police officers was well chronicled—took to the airwaves with the previously unpublished account.

Based on what it revealed, said the over-excited minister during one radio broadcast, he had sent the officer on several months accumulated leave. As for the probe’s initiators, the newly elected minister said they had been too cowardly to act on what he described as “damning evidence.”

One day following his revelations the justice minister’s predecessor defended his government’s reticence on the occasion. He told reporters cowardice had nothing to do with the decision not to release the report or to act against the particular policeman. His government had ordered the four existing copies be shredded, he said, “out of an abundance of caution.”

In short, they were concerned (on the stated basis that he had been denied an opportunity to answer the allegations against him) the officer might turn around and sue his accusers.

“We inadvertently denied him natural justice,” said the former justice minister.

Already, at least one former minister is threatening the current government with legal action following publication of the councils review—at any rate, he claims to be discussing the possibility with his lawyers. Meanwhile, media representatives are wary of reproducing or commenting on the document’s content—especially considering the unusual procedure adopted in the government’s purported attempt at bringing the truth to light.

At a press conference last week the Minister for Social Transformation, especially famous for his publicized statements regarding former Taiwanese Ambassador Tom Chou, told reporters his government had done all it could in the matter. Moreover it had passed the review on to the police and DDP’s office for further investigation and prosecution. How serious was Dalson? Does he really expect the under-manned, under-funded and grossly lacking in expertise police department to undertake what might have been more usefully handed to a special prosecutor?

Might the particular press conference, with all its legal implications, have been more appropriately convened by the justice minister?

Since when does the DPP’s office take its orders from the political directorate? When her office seems especially reluctant to comment on the several unresolved murders, some 400 homicides dating back ten years, untold instances of unprosecuted rapes and other violence, citizens untried but long behind bars with no relief in sight, abandoned autopsies and other instances of justice delayed, where will the DPP find the time and money effectively to deal with this matter that clearly demands particular expertise?

Where does the attorney general’s office fit into the current scenario?

Might its stated intentions have sounded more credible had the government taken the usual route in matters involving possible misuse of public funds and maladministration: a commission of inquiry at the end of which the DPP’s office is required to determine whether there are grounds for prosecution?

Besides, it’s not as if the current administration are virgins when it comes to such matters!

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