FILE PHOTO:Rev. Dr. William Watty
FILE PHOTO:Rev. Dr. William Watty

Another baritone has joined the choir to swell the chorus of character assassination, the objective of which no one has so far been able or seemed eager to determine or disclose. The new voice has been advertized as "justice emeritus", as if to impress upon readers that his contribution, thus authenticated, should be respected and taken seriously, since any deviation from the path of rectitude might bring into disrepute the system wherein, and the process whereby, he thus became distinguished.

Well then, let us test the recent contribution of Mr. "Justice Emeritus" to the columns of the Chronicle of January 29? For a start, it seems to have revealed more about him than about the person he set out to castigate. The caption, if nothing else, was a shocker. Not even in our fish markets, nowadays, are we still exposed to, or entertained with such intemperate language. "Lennox Linton: A most unskilled and dangerous liar". Come on, Mr. "Justice Emeritus", was that really necessary? And crowned with superlative, to boot! Whatever the cause of your agitation, you will, I believe, further improve your already impressive credentials and help us all if you are able to contain yourself.

Furthermore your contribution, for a "Justice Emeritus", strikes me as having been written back to front. By that I mean, if I were a "Justice Emeritus" which, fortunately or unfortunately, I am not, I would have made your caption the last hurrah of my concluding paragraph after, and only after, I presented my unassailable arguments and proved my invectives beyond contradiction. After all, isn't this the hallmark of justice, emeritus or not? Didn't you arrive at a considered judgment only after you listened to both sides of the case and carefully weighed the contending arguments? Did you take your seat on the Bench with your mind already made up? Did you open your Assize by proclaiming the QED, even before the litigants had their say?

Look at how Lennox Linton has been described – "a most unskilled and dangerous liar". Even so stated, wasn't that somewhat excessive? But that apart, the combination, I must confess, is so new to me that I am still trying to visualize such a character. I have a fair idea of what both "unskilled liars" and dangerous ones are, although I have not yet encountered any superlatively so. But "a most unskilled liar" who is dangerous is inconceivable to me. Unskilled liars are not, so far as I am aware, dangerous except to themselves. It is the skilled and skilful liars that I am afraid of. They are the really dangerous breed. They are so convincingly slippery they can, with lies, wriggle out of any net, however finely meshed. But it seems that, for Mr. "Justice Emeritus", it is the unskilled liars who are the dangerous ones. The skilled liars, for him, are nothing to worry about, and the more skilled they are, the more innocuous!!

Last, but not least, who is the liar? If I understand Mr. "Justice Emeritus" aright, he is one who makes statements, defamatory or otherwise, as if they were true but, when required to do so, fails to produce the hard, necessary and vital evidence in support of the allegation. The definition I understand, but I am not sure I can go along with it. It cannot be that the mere failure to support an allegation with hard evidence is enough to define the liar. There would then be too many of us on the planet, including ardent believers of all the religions and of none. No. The liar is someone who knows that what he is declaring as the truth is untrue, but nevertheless declares it as the truth. Failure to present the hard evidence in support of a statement, praiseworthy or defamatory, does not make the statement a lie or the speaker a liar for, in spite of his failure to produce the evidence, he might still be telling the truth. Though inaccessible to him, the evidence, successfully suppressed, might exist. He might therefore be unfortunate, incautious or simply foolish. He might not have the leverage or the clout to access the evidence that is there, but he need not be the liar!

I would therefore advise Mr. "Justice Emeritus" to revisit his definition for, taken one stage further, it could easily backfire. Whence, for instance, his confidence, and where his evidence that the hard evidence supporting Linton's defamation, which he was unable to produce, does not and never did exist? If being a liar can justly be derived from his inability to produce the hard evidence for the defamatory statement, where would Mr. "Justice Emeritus" look for his hard evidence were he now to be sued for defamation? Where is his proof that the Complainant before the High Court and the Privy Council was in fact innocent of the defamation and that Linton knew him to be innocent, when he defamed him? Where? From the judgment handed down by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council? Where is the hard evidence of someone who, knowing the truth, defamed notwithstanding? Where, Mr. "Justice Emeritus" is your proof that Linton is this most dangerous liar as you have alleged? And, should you be unable to produce it, should you then become a liar – unskilled or dangerous? No, not by my definition, but Yes, by yours! I am therefore not questioning the judgments that have been handed down. All I am saying is that the judgments were not remotely about whether or not Lennox Linton was a liar that Mr. "Justice emeritus" should have set out to defame him.

It is high time that our legal luminaries know their place. By failing to do so, they have a way of over-reaching and overthrowing themselves. At one bound they leap like kangaroos out of Bar and now Bench, into the Media Houses, moralizing upon the judgments handed down and casting aspersions as if God had just spoken out of a cloud. That is not merely inconsiderate or unwise. It is wrong. Depending on the law the holy prophet might quite legally be condemned to death as a hardened criminal for giving utterance to an "unpatriotic" oracle. The legendary hero of one regime might become the abominable villain and outlaw under the next; and still, every judgment handed down can be validated as just and fair and immaculate. For the Courts can go only so far. They can only interpret and apply the Statutes as they stand. Guilt may be determined but only according to Law. Until proven guilty according to the Law, innocence must needs only be presumed, though not established. Thus far may the Courts go and no further. On the matter of whether one is a liar, failure to produce the vital evidence is therefore neither safe nor fertile ground from which to moralize for not even perjury can be presumed. It must be proved. Litigants vindicated by law do not thereby become angels nor, when penalized, demons. Advocates for either side are neither saints nor psychics. Judges are not divine. Laws are not cast in stone, but may be amended and even revoked from time to time. Therefore, whatever the cause, whatever the provocation, whatever the objective, it will always be in our common interest to be as considerate of others as we wish them to be of us.