The Media and Sir Brian's Lecture
What I heard from Sir Brian Alleyne, retired Chief Justice of the OECS Court at the public lecture at the Fort Young hotel on June 18th 2013 provided another opportunity for real reflection as a civilized society. One such area that cries out for reflection is in the area of self-introspection on how we as a Christian people, particularly the Catholic faithful deal with each other regarding issues of morality, ethics and truth, the law and importantly our spiritual relationship, not only with our maker but indeed with one another.
Sir Brian was at the time speaking on the topic "Faith and the Law" at a public lecture organized by the Diocese of Roseau (Catholic Church) in observance of the Church's "Year of Faith". Sir Brian's presentation does not answer all of the questions relative to all of the issues, and I did not agree with all the arguments he advanced either, but it is a sufficiently good foundation for critical thinking and the development of other interrelated subject areas.
Judging from the media reports that followed the presentation, I have concluded that the media in Dominica was not present. Or those who were present were so focused on what they wanted Sir Brian to say that they just did not hear anything else. From what I have read or heard, the only two subjects that seem to attract the attention of the media are those related to "Buggery" and the ugly face of corruption that seem to be dogging the "legal profession". I have not seen or heard any report or commentary on the number of other issues that Sir Brian took time out to identify and elucidate on. Alas! It says much about the interest of the media. Just to cite two other issues
In his presentation, Sir Brian alluded to the absence of or none appointment of an Ombudsman since the coming into force of the constitution of Dominica in 1978. The office of Ombudsman as presented in the constitution is an important institution related to the good governance of this country. I may not be too far off if I suggest that Sir Brian might have remarked that he takes some of the blame unto himself (not appointing an Ombudsman) since he served for three consecutive terms as a senior member of the government of Dominica during the period 1980-1995. Sir Brian lamented the lack of will on our part (successive governments) to follow through with such an important appointment as provided for in the constitution. As a follower of developments locally, I do recall that the closest we've come to begin dealing with the appointment of an Ombudsman was during the period 1995-2000. At that time I remember there was a meeting of Caribbean Ombudsmen/women that was held in Antigua. Dominica was represented at that meeting by a member of the ruling party of Dominica – an insider from its women's arm. Please note that the Ombudsman is supposed to be a non-partisan person representing every aspect of Dominican life and aspirations. A party insider could never do justice to the intent and spirit of that constitutional provision.
Another classic omission from the reporting of Sir Brian's presentation has to do with the role and functions of the Public Accounts Committee. This is a constitutionally provided for provision in law establishing a parliament appointed committee to monitor the management of government's finances. The Public Accounts Committee is chaired by the Leader of the Opposition and includes members from both the government and opposition benches. The committee has sweeping powers to investigate, look into and report to the parliament its findings on any aspect of government's finances. It can summon documents, records, personalities (holders of public offices), hold meetings and carry out inquiries as it deems fit and necessary into how the public purse is managed. Any wrong doing is reported to parliament and parliament is empowered to take action. I am careful to say that Sir Brian expressed great disappointment in the functioning or rather non-functional status of Dominica's Public Accounts Committee. I should add too that for two years the committee could not be appointed on account of the absence of members of the opposition from the parliament.
Today we must not only demand more of our leaders in government, but we must also critically assess and evaluate all that the opposition has thrown in our direction. We should also stay far away from a Theocray, where church and state is one institution with two branches. Those we chose to lead us in the seat of government must be imbued with certain spiritual values, including truth, honesty and love of others, that will serve to inform our legislative and development pathway.
From a Christian perspective, I came away with the conclusion that we, all of us have fallen short on our role as Christians. We have resorted to finger pointing, not realizing that our own fingers are pointing right back at us. We have taken umbrage with the speck in our neighbour's eye, totaling forgetting the pain caused by a log in our eyes. We have laid all the blame on someone else and not me.
I speak only for myself in this piece. I am not perfect as I forge a daily struggle to stay above the fray and survive everyday living a decent Christian life. From experience, it is not easy, for all too often I find myself not measuring up with the spiritual blue print that ought to guide and direct our life as Christians – followers of Jesus. I look forward to more thought- provoking lectures.