TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO NEWSDAY
Thursday, March 6 2008
Prime Minister Patrick Manning was less than tactful when on Saturday he commented at a news conference on a matter that is now properly before the Courts of fellow Caricom country, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), involving the Prime Minister of that country, Dr Ralph Gonzalves.
While it is a matter of record that the St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Director of Public Prosecutions, after examining the evidence, decided not to pursue legal action with respect to allegations made by a female Police officer against PM Gonzalves, nonetheless a judicial review had been sought of the DPP’s decision, and the SVG law courts are to rule later this month on whether or not to allow charges to be proceeded with against Dr Gonzalves. The 36-year-old female Police officer had been part of the guard detail at the SVG PM’s residence at the time of the alleged incident.
Clearly, it would have been better had Prime Minister Manning waited until the determination of the judicial review and any other appeals which may have followed before offering any comment on the matter, if he thought such comment was necessary. This would include an appeal, for example, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which, incidentally, is the final Court of Appeal in such matters for both Trinidad and Tobago and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Surely, Mr Manning should have appreciated that his tactless comment, bore, however unintentionally, the official seal of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and not that of an ordinary citizen which, in whatever way you look at it would have been unfortunate. Patrick Manning was not voicing an opinion in a private capacity in the confines of a living room in a private residence, but rather making a comment, an official one at that, as the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
And this, particularly, as his statement was made at an officially called media conference, admittedly to deal with another issue, and held at the Diplomatic Centre of the Prime Minister’s Residence. What, exactly, did Mr Manning mean by this statement which was published in Sunday’s issue of Newsday: “It is the people of Trinidad and Tobago who determine who stays in office and who does not stay in office and we will continue to have it that way as long as the PNM is in office. There is going to be democracy in this country, and not mob rule or justice that is based on allegations.”
We hope that Prime Minister Manning, on reading the news report, must have wished he had put together a somewhat different selection of words. While it can be argued that Mr Manning statement, made as it was at Trinidad and Tobago’s Diplomatic Centre, at St Ann’s, Trinidad, did not fall within the jurisdiction of the courts of St Vincent and the Grenadines and, therefore, could not in any way be classified as commenting on an issue that was before our domestic courts. However, in the age of not merely the print media, but the broadcast media as well, Mr Manning’s statement would have been read, heard and viewed in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
We urge Mr Manning that as long as he is Prime Minister that while he may feel the need to come to the defence of a fellow Caricom Prime Minister, to exercise tact when dealing with issues, made all the more sensitive because they can be seen to before the courts whether in St Vincent or otherwise.
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