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The Grinch, parliamentary privilege and the Judiciary

Sunday, December 24, 2017

There are many Christians who believe that Christmas is no longer preserved in celebrations as a significant religious event, yet for others, it has maintained the essence of a sacred day.

Gift-giving, although a modern-day practice, may well symbolise the generous act of the three wise men who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to honour the birth of Christ.

Perhaps, the so-called commercialisation, and the Grinches of Christmas—those ill-mannered people we encounter on the streets and excessive drinkers who spoil the happiness of others, prompt commentators to claim that society has lost perspective of the spirit of Christmas. That is, perhaps, similar to many other things we once valued such as the meaning of Parliamentary Privilege and dignity of the Judiciary.

Parliamentary Privilege refers to the rights and immunities granted to parliamentarians, but today, like the Grinch and yuletide market vendors hustling sales, the House seems to have become another marketplace where members trade reputations and the dignity of Parliament for the lowest possible price in the name of “privilege”.

Democratic constitutions guarantee free speech, and for Parliaments, it is a privilege intended to protect members from undue interference including civil litigation for slander and defamation in the exercise of their functions of debate and executing the legislative agenda. It was not intended to be used as a political blade of disgrace, neither to spare parliamentarians from criminal prosecution. It is a privilege—honour—that is consequential to performing services for the good of society.

Given that Parliament is a place where elected officials represent their constituencies, abuse of the franchise given to them by the people reflects poorly on members, more so, it disgusts the public. With so many critical issues affecting us–crime, poverty, homelessness, the conveyor belt education system that has long outlived its usefulness to society, the delivery of water, degradation of the environment and ever-worsening flooding one would think there are priorities. Criminal allegations are of concern to the public, but it is reasonable to expect that such claims would be authoritatively demonstrated with, among other evidence, credible information that is already in the public domain and which should be investigated.

The kinds of allegations pelted out are sometimes so egregious that Parliament appears to have become a place for political revenge and wickedness. True, we have not resorted to fist fights and throwing furniture at each other as happens elsewhere, but we don’t need someone else’s mirror to see how disrespectful the behaviours are to the citizens’ agenda. Maybe Parliamentary Privilege is not viewed as an honour, but as power. Yet, preventing harm to the dignity of the Parliament and the welfare of society should be the only basis for the use of such power by civilised people.

Take heed; Parliament has its sibling Grinch in the judicial system. The Law Association gives the impression that it does not have a responsibility to adopt ways to resolve matters of critical importance in a manner that would preserve, as far as reasonably practicable, the dignity of the Judiciary, or what’s left of it. The low esteem in which the public holds the judicial system is not an overnight phenomenon. If the association has impeachable evidence of misbehaviour in public office against the leadership of the Judiciary they should act on it in the interest of the system and society. The problem is, it hasn’t. It is now seeking to establish facts. The Grinch’s idea of justice is to behead then find the evidence to prosecute.

Yes, it is the season of giving after the Grinch made mas with Parliamentary Privilege and the judicial system. Hopefully, Parliament will shun the Grinch year round, and the Law Association will pause and reflect on how it could build esteem of the Judiciary while pursuing a cause it thinks is just.

Wishing everyone a blessed and happy Christmas.


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