The saga involving the scrap metal trade in Jamaica continues , this time with new players getting involved . As is customary in Jamaica nothing works well, so if a policy decision is taken that actually is the correct one, one can rest assured there will be thunderous howls of condemnation from all quarters . The latest player to enter the non- debate is Earl Witter the Public Defender.
Now just for transparency, let me declare, I was never a fan of that office, and I am absolutely not a fan of Earl Witter the head of that Agency. Let me clarify my reasons for feeling this way.
(1) The office of Public Defender is a duplication of Government functions , a drain on the meagre resources of the State.
Jamaica has a Justice and Attorney General’s Office ‚that Office is designated to take care of the interest of the Public.
Earl Witter ? well some considered him a good Lawyer , not me this Guy was at best a mediocre operative , and this comes from watching him in the Court Rooms of the corporate area for almost a decade.
Witter , not willing to be left off the publicity train, grandly announced that his office would be launching a probe of the Ministers actions .
Here’s the story courtesy of the Jamaica Observer:
PUBLIC Defender Earl Witter yesterday described as unfair the Government’s decision to shut down the local scrap metal trade, and said his office would be embarking on a month-long investigation to determine whether the ban is justified.At a press conference at his Harbour Street office in Kingston, Witter contended that the move had put legitimate dealers out-of-pocket and that findings from his probe would be used to help the authorities correct problems being experienced in the industry.(Jamaica Observer)
I did tell you this Witter was mediocre right ? well here“s the evidence from our friend Jamaica’s Public Defender Earl Witter. If Mister Witter has already concluded that the actions of the Minister of Industry and Commerce is as characterized, “unfair” why bother with an enquiry? , The correct thing to do would be to send a letter to Minister Tufton , detailing his contention and affix the suggestions he supposedly have, that will fix the problem as he asserts. This would save valuable tax dollars for the people’s business.
Secondly , how can any person having an understanding of how Investigations are done, conclude with any certainty ‚that the investigations would last for a specific period of time , one month , according to Witter ? But Witter wasn’t done.
We are interested in the honest dealer, gatherer, and honest exporter who plays by the rules and who may have been, by this act of the minister, shafted. And we do that because we have a responsibility to look into this whole business,” said Witter, adding that vandals must be infected with a “disease of the mind”.
“A way has to be found to suppress effectively that kind of activity, and under our present system of government it is the duty of the Government to do that and to put in place the system which can work the results that we seek,” he said.
Witter said that he had been in dialogue with members of the Scrap Metal Federation — which represents licensed exporters and dealers — and said that the organisation has decided to seek legal recourse independently. He, nonetheless, extended his invitation to the body, but noted that his primary concern was with regards to the gatherers.
“We desire to let it be known to any plain and honest dealer who complains to this office that by being put out of business… by this decision taken by the honourable minister, has the right to complain to the public defender, who has the right to investigate his complaint and seek the appropriate remedy,” Witter said.
According to Witter, the findings of the investigation will be submitted to the industry ministry within weeks.
In the meantime, Witter said that he will also be investigating the processes employed by the police in the seizure of goods from hawkers and peddlers in the Corporate Area. According to him, confiscated items are not being appropriately logged and secured, and thus unlawfully end up in the homes of individuals.
“As regards to these perishables, what we would be seeking to find out from the police is, what systems they have enforced regarding the destination. Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Witter-to-probe-legitimacy-of-scrap-metal-trade-shutdown_9369630#ixzz1U4X9N0k6
The office of Public Defender is a commission of the Parliament, established by statute,
the Public Defender (Interim) Act, 1999
(i) (‘the Act’). It is mandated to protectt and enforce the rights of “citizens” (ii) (My emphasis).The Public Defender is appointed by the Governor General after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. He holds office until the age of seventy years. His status (including remuneration and terms of tenure) is equivalent to that of a Judge of the Supreme Court. In particular, he may only be removed from office by reason of inability to discharge his functions due to infirmity of mind or body or, for misbehaviour. The process of removal commences with a resolution of both chambers of the Parliament (House of Representatives and Senate) that the question of removal be investigated. Thereafter, the Governor General appoints a tribunal of persons who hold (or have held) office as a judge of a court of unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters, in some part of the Commonwealth. The tribunal is required to enquire into the matter, report its findings of fact to the Governor General and, advise him whether the Public Defender ought to be removed from office; in which case “the Governor-General shall by instrument under the Broad Seal” remove him from office. (iii) He is not, at any time after he ceases to hold office, (whether by removal or otherwise), eligible for appointment in the public service. Subject to the approval of a Commission of the Legislature (iv) the Public Defender may appoint and employ at such remuneration and on such terms as he prescribes, such officers and agents as he considers necessary, to assist him in the proper performance of his functions under the Act. (v) By the foregoing provisions, inter alia, the independence and security of tenure of the Office are institutionalized. The Public Defender is therefore appropriately equipped to commit, fearlessly and unwaveringly, to the conscientious discharge of his mandate. (vi) The Public Defender replaced an earlier commission, that of ‘Ombudsman’, created by an Act of 1978 (vii) (‘the 1978 Act’) and which, classically, was mandated to investigate complaints of maladministration by public authorities, defined (viii) to mean a Ministry, department or agency of Government or the police services. (ix) The jurisdiction and functions of the Ombudsman were prescribed in Part III of the 1978 Act. ( 9 page document which may be found online in pdf format).
As long as Jamaicans are blinded by their continued ignorance and over affiliation with the green and orange gangs that run the country these duplications will continue and the grandstanding by the likes of Earl Witter will continue, actions that serves no purpose other than to appease those who created him in the first instance. Once again Jamaica loses.
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