By Patrick Ferrari
When the ULP government appointed Colin Williams as DPP in 2003, the Bar Association penned an opinion in the Bar News expressing “profound dismay” with the appointment. That it could be fraught with “political mischief”. And was “a threat to human freedom”. Serious stuff, that, especially when you comprehend the powers of a DPP: a DPP is, “as it were, a law unto himself,” the Bar wrote.
He was appointed anyway because the cabal of political elites knew full good who they were appointing. And why. The appointment revealed a considerable portion of moral scarcity and reeked of Faustian tactics and it flew in the face of legal opinion and our dulled capacity for shock.
Then in 2012, the fear came true: his handling of the fatal Union Island debacle.
Let’s have a brief look back at how he dealt with the criminal offences in the fatal Union Island encounter. In 2012, Venezuela was heavily involved in the construction of the Argyle airport. Their commitment to the project was dire. In June that year, under the cover of a sunless sky, a small, well-armed Venezuelan vessel illegally entered the waters of SVG. When two law enforcement officers approached the vessel, a gunfight broke out and four souls lost their lives. During the firefight, a sealed packet, secured to an anchor, was thrown overboard.
The encounter ended with four dead bodies, three by gunshots. the bodies, the surviving crew, the police officer who was involved, the guns, and the recovered packet. The content of the packet, white powder, was purported to be “laundry detergent”. A conspiracy to make QAnon smile. You would have to be incomprehensibly stupid or structurally corrupt to buy their Marie Antoinette-style imperial edict. When asked about the startling revelation, the DPP, now Justice Williams, answered with a question and a pyrrhic chuckle with a smug grin, “That is very curious, isn’t it?” The question was a gift to a journalist who was, in turn, curious. This one, though, left it at that. Talk about our dulled capacity for shock. Conspicuously, the prosecutor was not curious enough to delve deeper, lest happily curiousness would have opened the can of worms: secrecy, domination, trickery, and fraud. It was an arbitrary exercise of power. Not to mention abuse. Well, not really, because after all is said and done, a DPP is, “as it were, a law unto himself”.
Nothing must jeopardise the airport construction. The DPP claimed that he had no evidence, and “if you have no evidence, you just can’t proceed”. If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you do not look for evidence — think ballistics for starters — and find, er, none, does that mean that there is no evidence?
Despite “can’t proceed”, there was a kayfabe court hearing, a disgraceful mockery in my opinion, because, first, there were no witnesses, the single purpose for the hearing. Then, the hearing was adjourned, just for them to appear. Ay, but it was an open-ended adjournment — with no appointed date for resumption. And that, as they say, was that.
Meanwhile, the charges against them, the ones who had evidence, were dropped and they were set free. As free as birds. To be sure, free to leave SVG before a court inquiry into four violent deaths. See? A ballistics test might have thrown a spanner in their works.
Interestingly, the Prime Minister had said that, “a coroner’s inquest was legally required and will be conducted”. And the DPP, “it is my place to make sure that the law is carried out”. Blah, blah, blah, blah by two. A coroner’s inquest was not conducted. Period. And with that, the 2003 concerns of the Bar Association were justified proper.
The truncated episode was a dark circus and a scandalous abdication of judicial responsibility. There will never be closure of this sordid fiasco until there is a coroner’s inquest. Is that who should be a High Court Judge of the Eastern Supreme Court? Yes? Then run yes by me?
No one, but no one, not even an incurious prosecutor would accept that during the heat of a pitched battle, a participant would take the time out to throw an item of petty value overboard, for safe keeping. Remember the anchor; they could not risk losing the soap. Unless the white powder was worth more than the conspiracy value. What, fifty odd bucks, XCD? Soap powder, I do not have to remind you, is available over the counter at any corner store in Union Island. Hell, even in most of Venezuela — at least at the time. Perhaps not so much now.
When was the parcel hermetically sealed? And why? When was it tied to the anchor? And why? All their eggs were in that parcel. Not smart. Clear as day, the Venezuelans came with criminal intent, prepared for the gunfight, and another DPP would have had his trove of evidence. But ours, now a High Court judge, saw none.
The airport was finished without the dreaded Venezuelan hiccup and after a suitable-ish pause, DPP Williams quietly — without an announcement — departed SVG to take up a post as a judge in Belize. Normally, you would think that the big up from DPP to judgeship would call for some homage. Alas, somebody must have felt trepidation powerful, saying how is best to let sleeping dogs lie.
If our leaders thought that Venezuela would have pulled the plug on the airport project, simply because their criminal compatriots are accountable for their crimes tells me what they think of the mindset of Venezuela. And it is neither flattering nor surprising.
The Eastern Supreme Court was contaminated by this appointment — regardless of who had what to do with it. When Justice Williams sits, I, for one, will not be able not to think of his handling of the Union Island fiasco. Of the salesmanship and puerile gullibility of washing soap; of no evidence; of allowing highly probable murderers to go free, easy so; of not holding a judicial inquiry; and of the adjournment, sine die.
Wait, did I mention how they left Venezuela on a fishing enterprise and all they caught was a cache of firearms, a box of washing soap — which they wrapped up and pitch way — and less fish than the DPP had evidence.
This is purely my musing: when favours are needed and underhandedness is afoot, I wonder if the imperious puppeteers dim the lights, draw the curtains, and look to their Faustian investment, their Manchurian Candidate, to do their bidding?
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