For those who are familiar with the scriptures, the above title is a play on Matthew 28: 18-29 where our Lord and Savior declares, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth . . .” Again, for those of us who delve into the scriptures, and are believers, it is comforting to know that such awesome power resides in one who will use that power for good, and such an one will definitely not abuse it. From our Sunday School and Confirmation Classes, many of us, at least those of us who paid attention, believe that Jesus is omnipotent. And yes, a big part of His omnipotence is His power to forgive sins. Look, we know how he once said to the woman taken in adultery, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? . . . Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more!” In fact, even as He hung on the cross, He extended His power to forgive sins to the dying thief with the words, “Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise!”
Curiously, we here in Antigua and Barbuda are blessed with a legal honcho who has appropriated unto himself, all power, never mind the small matter of our laws and our constitution. Our good attorney general (AG), he of frequent legal head-scratchers in the discharge of his duties, is “absolutely satisfied” (his infamous words of blessings on the Global Ports agreement) that all power is given unto “he.” With that conviction, our learned AG has made it his business to wield that power as it pleaseth him, never mind that as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer, he should know that we are “a nation of laws, and not of men.” (Sigh)
Anyway, one of his more recent exercises of that self-appointed power was the release of Shannon Martinez, an American visitor to our fair state, who was sentenced to one year in prison for possession of ammunition, and who ended up spending all of one day. There is still some confusion as to who recommended what to whom, but what is clear is that the action taken by the AG was outside of his legal ambit, and it was rectified ex post facto by our governor general. Ditto, his decision to grant a remission to Gideon Jackson, Bryan Frederik Soerowidjojo and Umberto Schenato, three convicted killers, as well as Derrick Brady, Mandela Samuel, Osuide Simpson, Emerlene Henry and Kenrick Wiltshire. Of the eight who were released, only the first-mentioned three are back behind bars. Seems, the good learned AG, he with many years of legal experience and scholarship under his belt, had a legal change of mind and sought to rescind his initial remission. Of course, High Court Justice, Marissa Robertson, in her ruling this past Monday, said that Jackson and Soerowidjojo must stay behind bars because, “The attorney general does not have the right to grant a remission, and the reason for its subsequent revocation provided in his correspondence was not substantial.” (It should be noted that several other prisoners were released in December, and that release went largely unnoticed by John Public).
Needless to say, in many other parts of the world, these baffling missteps (and we are being kind) would result in the the good AG being relieved of his portfolio. But not here in our fair state? Nah, it’s business as usual . . . until the next ultra vires action by he who seems to have a fetish for saying, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Never mind that the power to forgive is not his to extend to those who offend society.
Actually, our good learned AG seems to have a fetish for acting outside the parameters of his office as provided for in our laws. For example, in the run-up to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) referendum last year, the attorney general’s office took it upon itself, at the request of Lorna Simon, the supervisor of elections, to change the wording of the referendum question, never mind that only an act of parliament can effect such a change. Two alarmed civic-minded Antiguans, attorney Charlesworth Tabor, and retired school teacher, Juno Samuel, two of our finest thinkers, raised a hue and cry at this naked breach of the law, and they vowed to challenge the results of the November 6 referendum poll. However, the defeat of the proposal (with the arbitrarily amended question) to accede to the CCJ as our apex court, rendered that vow moot.
And so it goes. The currency of our good AG. Heck, the coin of the realm of the high and the mighty in our fair state. “This land is theirs, they are the boss / What they say goes, and who vex get lorse / . . . And no damn dog dare bark / . . . And if you ain’t like it, get the hell outta here!” (SOLOMON by The Mighty Sparrow). Hmmm! “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!” (Lord Acton, a British historian) And all power belongs to ‘them,’ in heaven and in earth! At least they behave so. Of course, if all/absolute power belongs to them, it is not difficult to see what the hell the exercise of that power is doing to this land that we love so dearly. Hmmm! Niccolo Machiavelli, he of the political treatise that spoke to the perverse notion of “the end justifying the means,” and what use is power if it is not wielded as arbitrarily and as self-servingly as possible, would be proud!
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