THE ARREST of two political figures this week continues a narrative this country is familiar with given our history. Action by law enforcement authorities against politicians always risks exposing such authorities to the vagaries of political discourse. But no one should be above the law and the authorities should be allowed to do their jobs without interference.
Such interference comes in many forms. It includes prejudicial statements that would tend to undermine the investigation by encouraging people not to co-operate. It also includes statements that could, down the road, affect a jury’s ability to impartially decide the matter, assuming the option of judge-alone trial is not taken. All sides of the political divide should be cautious.
Unfortunately, no matter who occupies the Ministry of the Attorney General, that government department has a role to play in the overall administration of justice. The extent of that role varies from the superficial to the significant. But always, the final arbiters are independent agencies, such as the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Service.
Still, the fact that attorneys general sit within Cabinet has always created the potential for the perception of an uncomfortable nexus between politics and law enforcement. This is more so considering the office’s history of once overseeing criminal prosecutions.
Agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau fall under the Ministry of the Attorney General. It is ironic that the UNC administration once called for the bureau to be removed from the purview of the Executive but did not go beyond the words and take the opportunity to effect such reform during its time in government.
Perhaps this was due to the inevitable need for synergies within the administration of law and order, as exemplified by bodies such as the National Security Council, a body chaired by the sitting Prime Minister of the day and which includes the Commissioner of Police and Minister of National Security, among other Cabinet officials.
It is always useful to have discussions about reforms and the balance between the Executive and non-executive arms of the State. However, such discussion should not detract from the more pressing need for law enforcement officials to be able to do their jobs.
We hope these matters are swiftly resolved, that all the parties involved are given adequate opportunities to exercise their rights, that state resources are used to impartially pursue the public interest, that both government and opposition politicians exercise tact and discretion, and that watchdog bodies in charge of reviewing police conduct as well as legal bodies charged with monitoring the juridical landscape can be satisfied that the fullest requirements of fairness and justice are being upheld.