EDITORIAL: Justice system must work for all
Justice too long delayed is justice denied. – Martin Luther King Jr – Letter From A Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.
MOST BARBADIANS revere the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr for the inspiration he gave in leading the fight against injustices of all sorts more than 50 years ago.
As a preacher, he recognized that the call to justice was the paramount ideal in his fight for a better tomorrow.
This call for justice did not start with King Jr but has been the cause of heart for many religious leaders throughout history. So when Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgetown Jason Gordon spoke this week of the need for the legal system in Barbados to be fixed, he was simply reaffirming a position that his leader
Pope Francis has adopted and one that was long ago promoted by Saint Francis of Assisi.
In our societies the rule of law is recognized as the foundation of governance. But it is the dispensing of justice that speaks to fairness and, more importantly, is the best way to keep the community together, enriching lives and letting all people – regardless of class, political influence or power – recognize that there is always something to look to, hope of a just (and better) society.
There can be no gainsaying that we in Barbados give universal support to the rule of law and have a proud tradition of our justice system, despite its flaws, working relatively well for us. But the said system must appear to work well for all the people all the time; it must ensure that the basic human rights of the weakest and the lowliest of our citizens are always respected. It must not be perceived as something which works only for the “privileged” in our society.
So King’s quotation and Gordon’s comments will resonate with many across Barbados today who feel that they are being denied an unalienable right, the access not only to a fair justice system but one which works quickly.
The best examples of their frustration are the prolonged periods many accused are kept on remand, the turnarounds and delays in the courts and, of course, the accusations of unfair and sometimes cruel treatment at the hands of law enforcers.
We know the problems and we have identified the solutions, but implementation remains questionable. So Bishop Gordon’s remarks are not new. The concern is whether his comments, too, will fall on deaf ears.
The king is not always right; there must be voices of dissent bringing different views to the debate if our justice system is to improve.
Certainly, we need to be stirred into action, and those in positions of authority must be held accountable.