Justice Vasheist Kokaram has slammed the legal system, describing it as adversarial and outdated and one which militated against peace.
Speaking at a function at City Hall on Thursday night to commemorate World Day of Peace and make San Fernando a “Peace City,” Kokaram said the legal system which had been fostered on a people to resolve disputes instead served in most cases to exacerbate broken relationships.
“An adversarial system which sanctions civilised warfare between disputants. A system which has recoded physical violence for a far more insidious type of violence, of language which is socially acceptable and socially destructive.”
Taking some responsibility for the system which he represents and symbolises, Kokaram pointed out that the system made it socially acceptable for someone to stop talking to their neighbour and instead send off pre-action protocol letters.
“It is a system which tells you don’t talk to your opponent, let your lawyers do that, conditioning you to remain in your private silos. impervious to alternative realities.”
He cited real examples of family disputes between parent and child which had reached the court, and lamented the need for both parties to be respected and acknowledge each other’s importance in the family unit.
“Who is having that conversation?” he asked.
“Institutionally, the legal system as the force of the State compels people, orders them to do things. The force of the law legitimises violent acts such as the destruction of homes, the removal of crops, the laying of oil pipes in forests, the taking of a life.
“We live in an adversarial society. We have been conditioned to the view that to achieve peace there must be a war of attrition of rights. To achieve an increase wages there must be strikes, to achieve respect there must be inflammatory language, to achieve better conditions of life there must be protest.”
His audience included San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello, Australia’s smiling policeman and Rotarian Geoffrey Bernard William Little, District Governor from Suriname Waddy Sowma, Basheer Mohammed, president of the Princes Town Rotary Club which initiated the commemoration.
Kokaram said simple issues had mushroomed into national controversies because of missed opportunites for working peace plans.
“The highway re-route conflict, the judiciary controversy, the ferry fiasco, the Couva hospital: all of these national controversies have mushroomed from simple desires to better the human conditions but that desire is now lost in our conditioning of positioning, leveraging,
The judge knocked the celebration of peace in the face of humanitarian atrocities such as the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims, the Isis campaign declaring war against established order, the sabre-rattling of the United States and the North Koreans, human-rights atrocities in Venezuela and the violence which erupted in St Maarten in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, with groups turning on each other, “the proverbial man crab betraying the social inequalities that existed under the mascaraed of the island paradise in the Caribbean sun.”
Saying the system was outdated and there was need for a new way of doing things, Kokaram suggested that peace be the centre of focus in a new paradigm.
“Instead of doing things to people, institutions should devise a way of working with people. Our jurisprudence and our system of justice should work with people and not against them, towards finding results which allows them to enrich their lives and not destroy it.”
He said the system should be more human and more humane.
After the function, the audience, led by the cadet corps, joined in a candle-lit peace march around Harris Promenade, which ended in front of City Hall, where Regrello planted a peace pole to mark San Fernando as a “Peace City.”