By Patrick Ferrari
Belizean High Court Justice, Colin Williams, a Vincentian, could someday be named to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Up to last year, Justice Williams was the autocratic Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the Ralph Gonsalves government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The CCJ and its watchers — and all Caribbean people — should sit up and take no comfort: Such an appointment is not peculiar to SVG. No one should take comfort from the possibility. Indeed, they should be afraid. Very afraid.
No court, high or low, should be a political trophy or a haven for damaged interlopers. With the recent CCJ sales blitz, you’d be in better stead if you look at these old facts afresh. This should be read like a mournful dirge with the chorus: The man is a judge, Lordy.
But first, a perspective. A short look at Williams’ career — you can look at it through a straw — see him go from a private citizen in Dr. Gonsalves’ law chambers, to public relations officer of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), to a senator in the ULP Government, to his appointment as DPP despite the weighty objections and “profound dismay” of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Bar Association. And now to his current position as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Belize — a CARICOM country.
He sailed straight through this sordid calamity — not just unscathed but promoted — with opportunistic, immoral and sometimes legally suspect decisions. Depending on where you sit, you might want — but you should never expect — those qualities in a judge. It is simply appalling.
Here are the facts.
June 3, 2012. Nine Venezuelan smugglers illegally entered SVG territorial waters off Union Island. Customs and the police approached the vessel and a gunfight evolved. Four people died.
During the fight a package tied to an anchor, was thrown overboard.
June 8, 2012. At the time, SVG was building the Argyle International Airport with Venezuela’s help. So, petrified of a fair trial, Esperanza de Mata, the mother of three of the nine smugglers involved in the fatal gunfight wanted Chavez to intervene, presumably to upend St. Vincent and the Grenadines judicial independence and the due process of law to free her three criminal spawns. “I call on President Chavez to help me out of this distress. I want to see my sons walk through that door,” she threatened. Four dead, her sons alive but she was still distressed.
June 19, 2012. The waterproofed package and anchor were retrieved and the police identified its contents as “washing soap.” Only a servile, bootlicking toady, with one eye on a black robe, would accept that.
September 21, 2012. The DPP discontinued the case against the gun-toting intruders. They were discharged, free to go home without as much as a coroner’s inquest — which is required by law. Was the other eye on the airport?
September 25, 2012. The DPP defended his decision not to proceed with the case against the Venezuelans because there was “no evidence”. Is that how a prosecutor’s mind works? Did the smugglers explain “washing soap”? Did he ask? “No evidence” is to fly in the face of a veritable cache of evidence: Red-handed crime survivors, dead victims, fingerprints, guns, spent rounds (the DPP has access to ballistic analyses), and a bizarre package, yet refuses to proceed because “there was no evidence”.
If he had a soul, he sold it. “No evidence” is obsequious and incandescent stupidity. Not to mention the “c” word.
An unprovoked “they cannot tell me what to do,” means they told him what to do, like: accept “washing soap;” say “no evidence;” stonewall the coroner’s inquest: The programming of a Manchurian Candidate. Is this the kind of consideration needed to be promoted to the esteemed bench in Belize? Then, it is the face of the law of diminishing returns.
The discontinuance left us with the only other premise. (1) Nine desperate Venezuelans chipped in to buy a single packet of washing soap, which is hard to come by in Venezuela; (2) they waterproofed it in case they had to throw it overboard for safe keeping; (3) they carefully secured it to an anchor to be able to retrieve it. (4) That done, they set out for their 500-mile trip to St. Vincent and the Grenadines with a small arsenal to protect their precious packet of “washing soap;” (5) their aim was to smuggle the commodity that is cheap and easily found in every corner store in SVG; (6) then they would peddle it and then head back to take care of their families with the profit from a packet of “washing soap”.
Almost laughable if four people did not die. And no inquest to uncover the truth. And if the DPP didn’t play along with a theory — and packet — that dismisses rational discussion and one that would not otherwise fool a gullible nincompoop. And that Mister Washing Soap DPP is now a judge.
The illegal, high-spirited and fatal misadventure only piqued the top prosecutor’s curiosity. “Curious” with a smug grin and rosy giggle. But not curious enough trigger moral and legal probity to find the truth. It is a grim calculus of moral turpitude.
October 9, 2012. The DPP defended the decision to let the Venezuelans go home before a coroner’s inquest was held because “it would not be difficult to bring the men back after the coroner’s inquest.” “The?” Which? “After?” Are they not central and indispensable witnesses to an inquest? Before it is concluded?
December 7, 2012. Still no coroner’s inquest but the Prime Minister, who is the Minister for Legal Affairs, expressed his hope for one. “I am hopeful that this would be done shortly.” How long is “shortly”? Then he shot himself in the foot. “Under the revised laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines, a coroner’s inquest was (is) legally required and will be conducted,” which is as good as saying that it is illegal not to have one. And he made “hope” incongruous.
December 6, 2013. Eventually a “coroner’s inquest,” — one without the Venezuelan witnesses and therefore a sham. No sooner it started, Senior Magistrate Sonya Young adjourned the hearing sine die. Five years on, it is still in permanent limbo. Why was it buried? Sonya Young is also a Justice of the Supreme Court of Belize. Same as Williams.
This iniquitous event could have been the inspiration for Richard Condon’s novel, “The Manchurian Candidate.”
The Union tragedy, tragic as it was, was not the biggest problem. The problem was what happened afterwards: A judicial coup d’état; the public rape and manipulation of our justice system.
The CCJ does not get to sit on the bench for this one. It is not a spectator’s sport. This is a case for reparation if there ever was one. They should open their eyes — and ears — and at least be seen to be doing something about their learned friend’s submissions. It is a travesty of justice — all around. Williams should not have gone up in stature, which makes me smell collusion. Have they no respect for perception?
Above all, the CCJ is expected to stand behind the justice system’s Holy Grail, the aphorism (Lord Justice Hewart’s): Not only Justice must be done; it must also be seen to be done — for the good of itself and its black robe confederates. Williams’ actions and decisions show more than mere appearance of bias and now that he has been promoted to the bench, the CCJ has suffered collateral damage. After all, he’s one of them — in-waiting.
Until “legally required” is done; “soon” or not; and not hung out to dry on “hopeful”, the Union Island tragedy will be an open sore and a pox on St. Vincent and the Grenadines justice system and its manipulators.
Every day, thousands of Venezuelans flee Venezuela, surely “it would not be difficult to bring back” the remaining six living smugglers of “washing soap”. Surely.
Chavez is dead. The airport is built. Maduro is out of money. Besides everything, what’s to lose if the new DPP brought them back?
Dread, he cyarn even try.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].