In a government of laws, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by example . . . . If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.
–– The late American Justice Louis Brandeis.
Justice Brandeis is right! So too Barbadian attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim when he says our goodly Speaker of the House of Assembly Michael Carrington owes this country an explanation –– and a very detailed one at that –– about what actually transpired between him and his legal client John Griffiths that has led Madame Justice Jacqueline Cornelius to render a verdict against him.
Granted, it is a civil and not a criminal suit and Speaker Carrington was not operating under the authority of the mace when he seemed to have exercised less than the best judgement in a lawyer-client relationship gone sour –– which Mr Carrington should have expected to haunt his ability to preside in the court of Parliament.
As leader of the third oldest Parliament in the Commonwealth, whose duty it is to defend the dignity and honour of our 375-year-old legislature at all times, it is now for Mr Carrington to convince us all of his innocence of claims by his elderly client that in his capacity as attorney he continues to withold some $250,000 from the sale of the client’s property at Dayrells Road in Christ Church.
In fact, even if the payment was made today, Mr Carrington must still explain why this matter has been allowed to drag on over the past 14 years without settlement.
We have been seeking to give Mr Carrington the benefit of the doubt. However, that the Speaker would recuse himself from Parliament this week, instead of issuing swift rebuff of the Opposition’s attempts to make political meal of the situation, was for us a worrying telltale sign that offered some validation to the Barbados Labour Party’s call for him to resign.
And the circumstance was made no more palliative by Mr Carrington’s terse dismissal of our reporter when trying to get his side of the story.
“I do not discuss my clients’ business with anyone,” were the Speaker’s exact words to Barbados TODAY.
Really, Mr Speaker!
Certainly, there’s much more at stake here than a pensioner’s plea for payment. We do accept that what occurs in Mr Carrington’s private legal practice should remain there, except when it impinges on his ability as Speaker to maintain order in the House of Assembly and, by extension, our society.
Therefore, as one of this island’s chief legislators, Mr Carrington must never appear remotely to be out of order. Accepting otherwise would be to make a mockery of our political system, already boasting its fair share of harlequins and clowns.
How else could it be justifiable for the Government to continue to demand its fair share of taxes while failing to honour its own financial obligations, such as tax refunds, to its populace?
We are not about to join any bandwagon of callers for Mr Carrington to step aside permanently at this stage, but we do feel Mr Carrington’s return to the Speaker’s chair should be accompanied by a satisfactory and acceptable explanation of this civil suit outcome hovering above his head, that has obviously brought discomposure to his office and some discomfiture to the Freundel Stuart administration.
It is of little relevance at this point that many years back the Barbados Labour Party blundered in its appointment of Burton Hinds as Speaker, as Sir Frederick Smith would have us recall. With a more politically aware and interactive electorate today, Mr Carrington must be receptive to the disposition –– given his place as a contemporary of jurisprudence and the most powerful voice in the Parliament of this land –– that silence is not always golden.
We respectfully propose that Mr Carrington speak up and out.
All in favour say, aye. Those against say, no. We think the ayes have it!