Gossip and speculation have never been the equivalent of a conviction. Neither allegations, so often laced with self-serving prejudice. The mere say-so of a person cannot, in justice, affect the life or reputation of another – for one’s honour is one’s life and extends to the whole family, a very serious matter, indeed. Our reputation is our dignity, a belief valued and affirmed by us in the Constitution, appearing next to the first statement regarding our “faith in the supremacy of the Almighty God.”
The balm which emerges out of that Constitution cannot be washed away by a court of public opinion, though part of our wonderful democracy. Saint Lucia is not Cromwell’s “Star Chamber”, Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia where trials were a mere sham. The process we employ dictates that a man “should not be made to suffer except for a distinct breach of the law”, a principle we have fed and sustained since the establishment of our Courts of Justice in 1859 and the Magistrate’s Court in 1888. Were we to depart from that sacred principle by treating an allegation as a conviction, no one would be safe, from the Governor-General to the Prime Minister, to the Chief Justice, to the Archbishop, down to the beggar who, too, needs a good name, “the immediate jewel of the soul”.
Prime Minister Chastanet’s decision not to act on statements in the wind and elsewhere is, therefore, as sound as a bell. Only after a Court of Justice has extracted the grain from the husk, as it were, and distilled the truth from all the evidence in the blackmail case would the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have a case to answer or not. Should the evidence disclose conduct unbecoming of a minister, then, and only then, would there be cause for concern. In the meantime, the vigilant Minister for Justice should endeavour to hasten a speedy trial so that the matter involving a government minister does not degenerate into a long public trial.