The Supreme Court yesterday made it clear that it is independent and has integrity.
The Court’s statement was prompted by a report in the state newspaper of comments allegedly made by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo about a court matter involving the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, and DIPCON.
The report in question stated, “The Prime Minister opined that the judge’s action “smacks of vendetta. For me, it is a kind of judicial wrath for us to talk about imprisoning a minister of the government, who was exercising his function officially.”
In its response, the Supreme Court held that the report was of grave concern. The statement casts aspersions on the judiciary in relation to the matter before the court, the Supreme Court responded in a statement.
It stressed that the judiciary and the rule of law must be maintained at all times.
“The Judiciary would like to emphasize that anyone who is dissatisfied with a judgment or a decision of a court has a right of appeal, and this is the avenue by which a lawful challenge to any judgment or decision can be made.” It posited.
Later that day, the Prime Minister sought to defend himself, in a statement, writing that he did not criticise a judge, but that he condemned the legal action to cite a Minister of Government, in his personal capacity, for contempt of court.
Another section of the interview in which Nagamootoo made his remarks was quoted in the Prime Minister’s statement: “We believe that the action itself was frivolous, vexatious; it has no merit,”
The PM rejected that he made inappropriate remarks.
“The Prime Minister regrets any disrespect towards a judge that the distorted reports would have conveyed.”
By nightfall, the Department of Public Information – for which Nagamootoo is responsible – had retracted its report of the interview as well, and noted its “regret” for “misquoting” the Prime Minister.
Nagamootoo’s comments were made after a judge ordered that Minister Jordan pay outstanding dues to DIPCON, or face imprisonment. The Finance Minister has since been exonerated by President David Granger.
The Prime Minister’s complete statement from that interview is as follows:
“Cabinet has looked at the situation and found that the president has done the right thing by granting a reprieve to the Minister of Finance, Honourable Winston Jordan. We believe that the action itself was frivolous, was vexatious, it has no merit.
“You do not go after a person in a matter where liability is against the State. You cannot enforce that position by going after that minister in person. It’s going to open all processes to abuse; it means anyone can go against a judge, you can ask for the imprisonment of a magistrate; you could ask the imprisonment of the President, the Leader of the Opposition.
“The law presumes that the person who (commits) certain acts in his official functions is not liable in person and therefore, to seek the imprisonment of a minister for debt that had been accrued or a decision that had been made against the State, smacks of vendetta.
“For me, it’s kind of a judicial wrath for us to talk about imprisoning a government official – a minister of the government who was exercising his function officially, to penalise that person, in person, for liabilities that may not have been accrued to him personally.
Cabinet, not only supported the decision to grant a reprieve until all judicial processes have been completed, but Cabinet reposed confidence, full confidence, in the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan. We believe that the action against him had exposed him to contempt and ridicule.
“We believe that it was unfair and unjust and unprecedented that this should happen to a public servant – someone executing public policies and public functions. And, we believe that this attack on the integrity of the minister was unwarranted, it was unwelcomed, and we want to say very openly that all Members of the Cabinet, all his ministerial colleagues believe that he has done nothing wrong and that he is completely exonerated from any shadow of our doubt that he was anything other than honourable and he has received our full support.”
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