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EDITORIAL: Securing our rights, freedoms

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Securing our rights, freedoms

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Recent events in the middle east and in particular in Tunisia and in Egypt are brought into our living rooms by the magic of television.
We should all grasp the important lessons which those upheavals have for us as a young democracy building on a long history of parliamentary institutions  and representative and responsible government.
In the latest example, millions of revolting Egyptians are out on the streets calling for the removal of the Mubarak regime and for greater freedom and democracy.
One of the most significant images is that of the poor and the wealthy alike demanding essentially the same thing – greater freedom and the ability to decide their future without the dead cold hand of the state dictating the great decisions in the life of the people.
Mubarak now has little choice since the army is reluctant to fire on the people who seem determined to fight for the removal of restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of Egyptians.
The freedoms which we take for granted, such as the right to associate in trade unions and political parties, and to exercise our freedom of expression to criticize the head of government and members of cabinet, so long as we keep within the law, are sometimes taken for granted, but these recent events ought to be a reminder to us that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
Last week we read of a letter received by the prison authorities from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions concerning the status of Jippy Doyle at Her Majesty’s Prisons at Dodds. The report suggested that acting on the contents of the letter, no date was set for Mr Doyle’s release, though he had served his sentence, but had appealed against conviction to the CCJ.
It is good that this matter has so far been resolved and that Mr Doyle has been released in accordance with the order of the Barbados Court of Appeal. As Sir Richard Cheltenham, Doyle’s lead lawyer pointed out, had Doyle not been released because of reliance upon the letter, it would have had serious implications for the liberty of the subject.
We applaud the stand taken by Sir Richard and his legal associates and wonder how a letter written from anyone, anywhere, could have the effect of disturbing the authority of the Barbados Court of Appeal at all, and especially in a matter involving the liberty of the subject.
Such a suggestion is so contrary to the fundamental principles of our system of governance and freedom that the public needs to be assured that this situation has not arisen in the past. No person or institution in this society has the power to countermand a decision of our courts.
It is these matters against which we must constantly be vigilant, and while this incident may have arisen in good faith and without any malevolent intent, it is still a matter requiring our concern, since the intervention of Sir Richard and the oxygen of publicity must have expedited the resolution of what could have been a clear infringement of Mr Doyle’s fundamental right to liberty as guaranteed to him under our Constitution.
Mr Doyle’s freedom has been secured but this matter must not rest there, for as our law has shown, prisoners too have rights, and this society is entitled to know that our fundamental rights are respected even when imprisoned for breaches of the law.
That is the strength of our system of rights that Egyptians are prepared to risk life and limb to secure.