Two issues recently resurfaced during the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s 62nd annual conference. That there was significant political motivation behind the matters raised was unquestionable. That the politics involved does not render these issues unimportant and irrelevant is also unquestionable.
A few years ago popular calypsonian Adonijah rendered a song entitled Two Barbadoses in which he suggested, inter alia, that there was one set of rules for the patricians and another for the plebs. Implicit in his lyrics was the fact that under the right circumstances, money, social status and alliances can bring favours, exemptions and even apathy where the dispensation of justice and accountability are concerned. But woe betide the man of straw.
We Barbadians can become so blinded by rabid political allegiances and subservience, that we rail against a political entity we do not support, for some indiscretion, but recoil in silence when the same misdeed is carried out by a political grouping we support. What is a major issue for one party is dismissed as trivia for another.
At the recent political conference, the issue of illegal wiretapping carried out in Barbados by elements within the Royal Barbados Police Force was raised. The issue of Opposition Leader Mia Mottley’s legal right to practise law in Barbados was also raised. These are two different issues but there are certain fundamentals running through both. At a time when we are in the throes of much gun-related and drug-related crime, ostensibly perpetrated by plebeians, we must be careful not to send the wrong message by our indifference or failure to act, when unanswered questions are raised in high society or in the halls of power.
In Trinidad and Tobago some years ago, the issue of illegal wiretapping was a hotly debated subject. It was given full vent in the media and parliament there and among the common folk on the street. It is interesting that since allegations of illegal wiretapping were first raised in Barbados in 2005, the subject has been largely avoided like the plague by some media houses, social commentators and by specific legal entities that should have raised their voices, if only to demand answers. An investigation and report by the Police Service Commission that then formed part of a judicial inquiry, revealed that all of those subject to being tapped were persons of high standing in the island. The report indicated that not a solitary individual of criminal character was tapped. The silence on the issue was deafening.
The late Prime Minister David Thompson was identified as a victim. He never spoke publicly to the issue. He never will. Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur was identified as a victim. He has never spoken publicly to the issue. He never might.
The beautiful thing about the law, if it can be so ascribed, is that it is mostly clear and unambiguous. And where there are gray areas related to interpretation, the law courts are there to provide clarity. Thus, if there is a law giving authority to anyone to engage in wiretapping it will be written in black and white. If there is no law giving that authority and there is a law prescribing punishment for illegal wiretapping, then that law too is precise and unambiguous. It is then only left for action to be taken against offenders. If a crime has been committed, then the remedy should be sought in the criminal court. If there is a civil breach then the requisite court should deal with that situation.
Let us state emphatically that there is a place for wiretapping in the fight against crime. It is technology that is used in several jurisdictions across the globe to target criminal elements. But there must be laws to legitimize such action, to safeguard against the abuse of power and to ensure that legitimate activities in the homes of politicians, priests, judges, and plebeians do not simply provide amusement for those with questionable motive or twisted mind.
Even within the context of national security, there is still a framework through which countries operate. Firstly, facilitating law must still exist or some emergency power granted, a country’s leader and chief legal representative are usually informed of a national security matter. It is hardly ever a secret to be kept in the deep recesses of the mind of some gendarme who shares his concerns with no-one but his God
Perhaps the time is ripe for the powers that be to examine the possibility of introducing legislation to legitimize wiretapping under specific and controlled circumstances. This might be a case of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, but the law is the law.
Former President Barrack Obama was once accused by his successor President Donald Trump of not being an American, and therefore not entitled to be seated in the top position of the White House. Mr Obama produced his birth certificate and ended President Trump’s folly.
The Democratic Labour Party has accused Miss Mottley of praticising law in Barbados without the requisite qualifications. We hold no brief for Miss Mottley but we simply cannot accept that a woman of her integrity would perpetuate any type of fraud, would practise law without a law degree, would gain position and profit in society via a profession while not qualified. The laws of Barbados set out in black and white how one can become an attorney-at-law. To practise law while not fulfilling the stated requirements is to perpetuate a fraud and we believe that is not a characteristic of a potential Prime Minister of Barbados. Like Mr Obama, we believe that the production of those legal documents by Miss Mottley will put this issue to rest once and for all. We are confident she will do so. But alas, we do not believe we have heard the last of illegal wiretapping in Barbados.