Dr. Fraser- Point of View
September 29, 2006

Throwing caution to the wind

Like most Vincentians Tuesday was a very proud day and 6:35 pm a very proud time. That, of course, was the day and time when Earl ‘Ole’ George completed his historic walk in Jamaica. The thought of any one walking without sleep for 7 days and 7 nights befuddles me and taxes my imagination to the limit. The feat is, however, testimony to the power of the human mind and spirit.

We all here remember the walk done two years ago I believe, by ‘Ole’ George and Joel Butcher, so we knew what they were capable of doing. But the Jamaican walk had a major difference.{{more}} It was a walk around two neighbouring parks, one of them Emancipation Park. The monotony of this can best be understood by anyone who has even walked around a playing field for an hour. Can you imagine traversing the same landscape for 7 days and 7 nights, seeing the same things, the same blades of grass, the same features, being in a position really to even count every blade of grass? This is what makes the Jamaican walk even more fascinating and memorable. I don’t know who has ever attempted such a feat and if there is actually a category in the Guinness Book of Records that fits this, for one of the objectives of the walk was to gain an entry into the Guinness Book of Records.

Apart from the demonstration of what is possible by the human will and spirit and the discipline that is needed, the thought of someone doing this from a small island is something special. ‘Ole’ George saw himself as a messenger and had a few worthy objectives in mind, Caribbean unity and the fight against HIV/AIDS. The reality was that this deed was accomplished by a Vincentian walking in a far corner of the Caribbean, Jamaica. It therefore lends some meaning to “Caribbeanness.” The shouts and screams of Vincentians in Jamaica that were echoed through the cell phone that conveyed the final happy moments of that walk would have demonstrated what that feat meant to Vincentians, most of them students at the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology.

One has also to thank Douglas DeFreitas, NICE Radio and Cable & Wireless for providing on a daily basis an opportunity for ‘Ole’ George to share his feelings and thoughts with the Vincentian public. It was something special. What was equally amazing is that the strength of his voice on Day 7 seemed to have been no weaker than on Day 2. Remarkable! Remarkable! Some persons describe the feat as madness but a Vincentian student in Jamaica put a different spin on it. To her he was no longer ‘Ole’ George but ‘Incredible’ George.

Throwing Caution to the Wind

Last week’s newspapers must have caused some concern with one of the stories they featured. The Vincentian and News highlighted it on their cover pages. For the Vincentian ‘Enough is Enough’. The News was more direct, ‘Stop Police Brutality’. The Searchlight dealt with it on page 3 and captioned it ‘Out of Order’. They were all reporting on the sentiments expressed by High Court Judge Bruce Lyle at a special sitting of the High Court to mark the beginning of the 2006-2007 law term. Coming from a Judge who decided to throw caution to the wind and who was not prepared to apologise for anything that could be considered un-diplomatic is serious business. The issues he highlighted were police brutality, the rudeness and ill-manners displayed by police officers, the shabby treatment meted out to magistrates and judges, the deteriorating physical conditions in the Judges’ Chambers and the government’s massive red tape and bureaucracy.

Obviously Justice Bruce-Lyle had reached the stage of utter frustration to have made such an outburst. Reports of police brutality from the general public is one thing but when a Judge declares his disgust with this based on the numerous reports reaching his ears then that is something else and should demand the attention of everyone.

The administration of justice in any country is an important matter and those given the responsibility to administer justice must be provided with the means to do so. So the question of leaking chambers, of inadequate lighting and having to contend with an ancient air condition unit sends an appalling message. Why have matters been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent? I doubt that what was spelled out in Justice Bruce-Lyle’s message was anything new. These must of course have been brought to the attention of the relevant bodies before. The question we must ask is why have these been allowed to continue unattended as to have reached the point where the Judge was prepared to throw caution to the wind?

Even before the Judge made his comments on police brutality, QC Parnel Campbell who must have been deputising for the President of the Bar Association who was out of the country had targeted the issue of police brutality. When you add the claim that police officers were rude and ill mannered even to the point where the Judge himself had been a victim of this, then we are in serious trouble and our society is in danger of disintegrating. If a society reaches the stage where ill-discipline takes hold of the police then we have to take note. One might also be tempted to ask if such conditions have taken hold in the area of the administration of justice what can we expect in other areas. I don’t know what explanation can be given for this but whatever it is demands urgent attention. All of this not only point to the possibility of difficulties and deficiencies in the administration of justice but also to where we are as a society. If the Judge can be subjected to rudeness by members of the police force and to have been frustrated by bureaucratic red tape then what can be expected by the ordinary citizen?

I hope that the force with which Justice Bruce-Lyle spelt out his frustrations will wake us all up and draw speedy attention by those who have responsibilities in the areas highlighted as being deficient.