Fiat justitia or slow coach?
When I was a young man, the Merrymen of Barbados, led by Emile Straker, was the hit band of the Caribbean. If you went to a “house” party you started the night with the Merrymen and ended it with Los Indios Tabajaras.
First came Big Big Bamboo with its suggestive lyrics, then you hustled the girls, The More The Merrier actually, drank your rum until you were Sweet For Days and having found one that you could truly tell You Sweeten Me Girl, you moved on to Los Indios.
If by that time she had not yet promised to give you “some ting, ting, ting”, you settled into the body contact and slow grind of Maria Elena and Always In My Heart. By then dancing had indeed become the vertical expression of a horizontal desire.
The Merrymen came out one year with Archie Bruck Them Up and it staggered Trinidad like an over-proof Mount Gay Eclipse Black. Of course, the name became something that Trinidadians were more comfortable with.
Unfortunately, the word which replaced it was one frowned upon by decent society as offensive and was deemed obscene and its use in the presence or hearing of an unenlightened policeman was subject to arrest, a subsequent fine and/or imprisonment.
Such was the case with the young lady our leader “Rabbi” had nicknamed “The Mud”. In those days, despite becoming an Independent nation, Trinidad was still colour-structured. My neighbour whose nickname was “Ban” was light- or “red”- skinned.
Unfortunately, just as romance started between Ban and a dark-skinned young lady from a nearby village, an award-winning documentary entitled The Sky Above: The Mud Below, shot in Dutch New Guinea featuring cannibals, headhunters and pygmies, hit the cinema of our little town.
Noticing the resemblance between Ban’s girlfriend’s features and those of the New Guinea native ladies, Rabbi dubbed her “The Mud” and the name stuck like cheap pantyhose on a hot day.
Jour Ouvert (pronounced joovay) is the start of the two-day Carnival.
It was while we were enjoying our Joovay chipping behind our neighbourhood steel band, Deltones, that the talk went through the band like a whiff of marijuana. “Dey lock up Mud.” “Police hold The Mud.” “Mud in de cell.”
Now if you see an old acquaintance handcuffed and waiting for his moment in court to begin and you ask, “What happen boy? Why they lock you up?” he would reply, “Dey say ah thief a cow” or “Dey say I beat ah man”.
It is never “I did this” or “I did that” it is always, “Dey say . . . .” It turned out that “dey say” The Mud was fined for the use of obscene language for shouting out at the top of her voice, drowning even the steel band, her version of what Archie did to “dem”.
In Trinidad, another Archie, the Chief Justice, has made the headlines recently. “Dey say” that he has kept people waiting for judgment and they are so bruck up about it that one, convicted of multiple murders, has initiated legal proceedings against the Chief Justice.
Since lawyers and other educated folk are nothing if not original, this has led to the frequent repetition of the cliché “Justice delayed is justice denied” and even suggestions that the salaries of judges who did not deliver their judgments in reasonable time should be withheld.
According to a newspaper report, “Convicted killer Lester Pitman initiated legal action against the continued failure of the Court of Appeal to deliver judgment in his appeal, which has been pending for four years. Pitman argued he has had to suffer breaches of his rights at the hands of the Supreme Court which was vested under the Constitution with the responsibility of the protection of those said rights.”
Pitman argued: “Such a situation can only be but a rare event; at least one would hope so. Where, as in this case, the protector of our human rights has been responsible for their wanton disregard there could be no more blatant evidence that such actions amount to a breakdown of the rule of law and the fundamental pillars of our democracy.”
Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justices Paula Mae Weeks and Alice Yorke Soo-Hon presided over Pitman’s appeal and reserved judgment on March 4, 2010.
One judge has recommended to the National Constitution Reform Commission that judges who take too long to deliver their judgments should be punished.
A correspondent to the Letters To The Editor section of the same newspaper wrote, “People never learn or change their errant ways until you hit them where it hurts the most – in their pocket.”
Hitting them in their pockets might be a good idea but if I had to do it, especially to a Chief Justice, I would probably aim a bit higher.
• Tony Deyal was last seen repeating what the lady told the judge when he asked her why she hit her husband with a chair. “It would have taken me too long to lift the table,” she said.