KINGSTOWN –– Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves today sought to distance himself from the arrest of secondary school teacher Jozette Bibby-Bowen after she posted comments on the social website Facebook.
Last week, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Colin Williams discontinued two charges of obscene publication against the teacher, whose attorneys say they are now seeking possible compensation following her arrest.
Gonsalves suggested that the action of the police was not consistent with the directive of the DPP, saying, there was a communication from the DPP to the police and that communication “would have not been consistent with any arrest at the school and charging”.
The 37-year-old teacher was arrested in the staff room of the Bishop’s College in Kingstown on March 2, where she taught information technology, electronic document preparation and management and accounting.
Gonsalves, speaking at a Press conference said that following the arrest, people “who have an interest not in truth but in hysteria and, in some instances, some persons who make judgement about others persons on the basis of themselves”, had said that the arrest was political.
He said most of the commentary “pointed to Ralph”.
“I want to tell you, and you can watch me in my eye and you can twist every which way: on this matter I had absolutely no conversation with the police or the director of public prosecution to charge this lady,” Gonsalves said.
“I didn’t go through any intermediary for them to represent on my behalf what I thought. Whether I did it directly or went through any intermediary, I would have acted improperly.
“I have never in the 14 years plus since I am prime minister, never, spoken to the commissioner of police, any commissioner. None of them can tell you that I’ve ever called them to speak to them about prosecuting somebody; I have never done it with any director of public prosecution. I respect the separation of powers as regards criminal prosecutions,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security and Legal Affairs, said that as Minister of National Security he ensured that “systems and structures are in place with appropriate funding for citizen security and for the protection of people and their reputation, where that may impinge on the criminal and not on the civil”.
“But I have absolutely nothing to do with prosecutions, charging nobody — never done it,” Gonsalves said, adding that people close to him would know that his immediate reaction when he heard about the arrest and charge was “why are they charging this woman?”.
“That was my immediate reaction. Not that some other persons looking at the matter, as indeed the police, come to some other conclusion, but that was my reaction, and particularly so when I heard that they went to the school to arrest her there,” Gonsalves said.
“Now, if you are arresting somebody at a school for something, that something has to be homicide or something of a nature which is of such great urgency that is to be dealt with then and there,” Gonsalves said even as he noted that he was not saying that the police acted illegally.
“I am not addressing the question as to the police having the right to go to the school, as indeed the commissioner of police defended his officers who went there within the framework of the law.”