The Chief Justice did not have to deliver the speech he delivered today. He chose to because he wanted to. As the principal defender of the rule of the law of the land his words are not an ordinary opinion like mine or the next guy’s.
If the lead judge thinks the state of affairs in our country is such that justice is at risk we need to stop to listen. The Chief Justice suggested that the law in our country is not the same for everyone. No matter what the words on the law-book say, and no matter the good will of judges, if the enforcing authorities in the executive – the police and the attorney general – continue to fail to do their job with respect to some favoured people, the rest of us are being unjustly treated as we are subjected to laws that the corrupt are effectively exempted from.
The Chief Justice did not resort to specific examples but he knew who his audience would think of when he spoke of the impunity enjoyed from people as a result of the inaction of the police and the attorney general.
Brass tacks. The police and the attorney general failed to act on serious allegations of money laundering and graft alleged to have been committed by the highest authorities in the country. These include the prime minister’s family, his closest aides and his favourite Ministers.
The Chief Justice warned us that he expects that if you or I face allegations of having committed such crimes the enforcement institutions of the country would spring into action and haul us to be tried and punished by the justice system.
That would be only fair under normal circumstances except that the Chief Justice also warned us that since the same allegations against others have been met by inaction by the police and the attorney general a serious of consequential injustices are committed:
Firstly, on ordinary people who are punished for their crimes because justice on them can only deserve that name if anyone else committing the same crime expects the same punishment.
Secondly, and no less importantly, on ordinary law-abiding citizens who are entitled to be protected from criminals by institutions of the state that are supposed to hound crime and punish its perpetrators. Instead we suffer as instead of locking criminals up, they are blessed with impunity.
The prime minister’s interests are best served by the inactivity of the attorney general and the police. We can expect no action from the prime minister just because now even the head of another branch of government – one which is not answerable to him – openly and firmly criticised the injustice resulting from the inactivity of the branch of government the prime minister heads.
When historically a chief justice was caught in corruption, the prime minister of the time ensured the institutions of the state kick into action, which action eventually led to the arraignment and imprisonment of that former chief justice. The legislative branch was not called into action at the time because that chief justice resigned office without waiting to be impeached.
But the Chief Justice today reminded us he is powerless to bring prime ministers and ministers to justice unless they arraigned before him by the police and the attorney general.
Still, he is not so powerless as to remain silent and not try to shake this slumbering country into some form of awareness of just how bad things have got.
I will not be the first one to call upon the attorney general’s and the police commissioner’s immediate resignation. Nor will I be the last to be ignored. But I’m nobody.
The Chief Justice on the other hand …