Of lawyers, and letters and morals

shadiasimpson, shadiasimpson@nationnews.com

Added 25 October 2012

editorialcolourr

WE DREW THE IRE YESTERDAY of attorney at law Hal Gollop over a story carried in the MIDWEEK NATION that spoke to his advice to the Barbados Water Authority Negotiations Committee chairman on the possible negative outcome of changing contractors for the new BWA office construction in midstream. Mr Gollop told Down To Brass Tacks host David Ellis that the publication yesterday – though not illegal – was “immoral” and “illicit”, as his correspondence to the addressee was “confidential”, and the MIDWEEK NATION had no business carrying its contents. That the letter, copied to Minister Responsible for Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick, BWA chairman Dr Atlee Brathwaite and the project manager, was alluded to copiously at the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) mass meeting at Rice’s in St Philip on Sunday night could hardly have kept its status as private. Clearly Mr Gollop’s correspondence had already gone astray. The question would have arisen then if a matter of taxpayers’ spend – possibly and likely excessive – pertaining to a Government agency such as the Barbados Water Authority ought not to be known abroad. In cases of this nature, we believe the public at large have a right to know. And while we empathize with Mr Gollop, the greater good that stands on the ideals of freedom of the Press and the right of a people to be informed in a democracy such as ours is paramount. Our Governments do not censor what the Press publishes, and while we appreciate and consider legal counsel, neither do lawyers. It is almost second nature for governments and their spokespersons to keep the public in the dark on many a critical issue – particularly those that do not set them in the best of light. But we feel no compulsion to aid and abet any administration in such, except where by our own scruples and high standards we reason that withholding information would be for the better protection of citizens – and these are rare, as in time of war. We acknowledge that the freedom to publish information comes with the responsibility to establish truth. Mr Gollop argues the letter ought not to have been published, never denying it was written. We make one emendation, though: that it was not written on behalf of contractors Innotech Services Limited; that in fact it was a legal opinion by Mr Gollop for the Government. As to documents falling off a truck, they cannot sensibly be restricted to things politically partisan, as the goodly lawyer has suggested. The public have a right to information – so long as it will not be deleterious to their well-being and safety – of all matters that impact their lives and living. And, our source of the document remains privileged – confidential if you will!

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