The Dangerous Comedy at 1735

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The only reason we shall try to be a little generous and call it a comedy of errors and not a tragedy of incompetence is that no one died – or, we should say, no one is known to have died or been physically injured – so far from the bizarre events of late last week involving the release of about a dozen inmates from Her Majesty’s Prison.
And then the order shortly after to re-incarcerate them!
But it’s not the mere fact that our Attorney General and Minister for Legal Affairs, Justice and Public Safety decided to remit the sentences of some prisoners because of their good behavior and other manifest evidence of rehabilitation that generated such intensity of emotions ranging from outrage to panic.
Rather it was the list of names of those released, and how it sounded like a Who’s Who of Antigua and Barbuda’s most dangerous.
How quickly can you forget or ignore public sentiment to release convicts, the very mention of whom is guaranteed to disquiet and terrify us clean out of our wits – such that if we were driving when we heard the news, our car radios would instantly become distraction devices for which we could be charged?
Apparently our Attorney General is empowered to authorize the release of prisoners who have been recommended to him for remission of sentence by the Superintendent of Prisons.
The MOPS (make that Minister of Public Safety) and the SOP (as in Superintendent of Prisons) derive their privilege and power to so recommend and authorize from our amended prison rules.
We remember how they made a mess of it last year in the Shannon Martinez matter, which was probably nowhere so grave and scary as releasing convicted killers who savagely knife their own wives to death in full view of others; or who hack to death a homeowner who comes across them engaged in burglarizing his property; or shoot to death a defenseless gas station attendant in the course of an armed robbery as clumsy at it was remorseless.
You would have thought our AG would have learned to be more careful; that he would have become more embarrassment sensitive; more public safety conscious – more punctilious about what he signs off on; that even if the law empowers him to authorize he should filter things with such ominous implications through a broader process of consultation and advisement.
It is impossible for an Attorney General – especially one holding so many portfolios and with a constituency of ever needy and demanding supplicants at every turn – to read everything himself. That is why he has a pool, a team of legal officers and advisors, the Solicitor General and legislative drafters, his researchers.
The AG must stop behaving as if he never grew up, never learned a damn thing from the days when he found himself in legal hot water for certifying passport documents for a foreign national he did not know. Albert Wade may have recommended those releases in his capacity as SOP at the time, but there was (and still is) too much at stake for our AG to have been so casual, careless and flippant as to have signed off on them without meticulously perusing them – going through them with a fine tooth comb.
Especially when all we have heard (and read) recently appears to suggest that the relationship between Albert Wade and Cutie Benjamin has been anything but the best, if the published contents of a letter Wade wrote to his line Minister are anything to go by.
Benjamin would himself admit that it was only when he heard/read the OBSERVER new reports that Umberto Schenato – the man who butchered his ex-wife in broad daylight – was one of those released, did he take another look at Wade’s list of recommendations and realized to his horror who some of the people on it were. Bear in mind we have not yet heard from Wade on that.
Whatever joy and relief Antiguans and Barbudans may have felt in the past year over the netting of such as Delano Forbes and Calvin “Burga” James, would have been quickly negated by knowing and seeing the likes of Schenato, Jackson and Soerdijojo Frederik on the lam so soon after their convictions, when the memory of what they did still remains so fresh, so raw, so bone chilling to all the rest of us – but most particularly the families, spouses, parents, children that they left bereaved, baffled and traumatized; people who still cannot come to terms with the sudden, savage, heartless, brutal way that their loved ones were taken from them.
We hope this will be a week when our government and its leader will focus less on “cussing off” those who express unhappiness with the performance of the administration and its ministers (servants) such as AG/MOPS Benjamin. We hope there will less of the standard-and-stock reactions to breathe the predictable legacy of enmity and hatred against OBSERVER; that instead of our Prime Minister calling for the “removal” (whatever that my mean) of Serpent, Cleon and Knight, he should perhaps seriously consider a removal that will spare justice and public safety the jeopardy of carelessness and incompetence.

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