Opinion: Constitutional Court

POSTED: 07/3/13 12:11 PM

Cynics call it the Bob Wit show but it may all still work out: the Constitutional Court was in session yesterday for the first time in history. With three judges on the bench, the Ombudsman on one side and state attorney Richard Gibson Jr. on the other, the stage was set for a day filled with constitutional questions.

Our new Justice Minister Dennis Richardson put in an appearance, as did the attorney who is acting governor when the governor is off island, Reynold Groeneveldt. Animals R Friends president Monique Hofman attended the morning session, as did Dolphin Defender Mercedes de Windt. It is also interesting to note who were not there: our fifteen well-paid legislators, aka Members of Parliament. While they could have learned a thing or two about legislating, all fifteen MPs apparently had something better to do. Or maybe it was that the parliament building is closed for the month of July and the MPs have collectively taken an early vacation. Whether that is a well-deserved one is obviously a matter of opinion.

Another remarkable feat: the Constitutional Court went through the day without using the air conditioning system. Nobody complained, and nobody fainted of the non-existing heat. Today, when criminal court is in session, chances are that someone will crank up the system and blow a lot of money on arctic temperatures to make sure defendants, attorneys prosecutors and hangers on, not to mention journalists, are going home feeling like they’ve just spent their day on the North Pole.

The issues at hand may have seemed boring to some but they will define the future in quite some fields. There is for instance the question whether the parliament had the right to legalize cockfights, or to take article 28 out of the penal code. Another hot topic is the early release program for prisoners that are either foreigners or illegals. Their treatment differs from that for local prisoners and the Ombudsman wants to put a stop to that: equal treatment for all.

And then there is of course the matter of legalized prostitution, a personal favorite of former Justice Minister Roland Duncan whose companies are registered as the managers of Hypnotic Hotel and Entertainment, an entity that manages the Seaman’s buy valium on internet Club brothel in Sucker Garden.

Ombudsman Nilda Arduin made a point that this newspaper has made in the past, much to the chagrin of former culture Minister Rhoda Arrindell: she linked the abolition of slavery to the modern day slavery that is happening every day in our local brothels.

It is a good and valid point of course, even though the constitutional court does not deal with moral, but with legal issues – or constitutional ones, to be precise.

On this topic Justice Wit wandered into reality with a few choice observations. The Ombudsman prefers to keep prostitution illegal (and therefore punishable), but Justice Wit could not wrap his mind around that idea. What good will that do? he asked not without reason, adding that “everybody on every level” is cooperating with the adult entertainment industry on the island.

That may very well be so, but that does not make it alright. As the Border Bar-trial showed last year, girls of easy virtue are at times subjected to ridiculous and completely unreasonable working conditions. Saying that the word modern slavery comes to mind is an understatement: it IS modern day slavery that these girls are subjected to.

So what to do? Chase all brothel-owners into prison and close all whorehouses? If the state strictly followed the letter of the law that is exactly what should happen, because all brothel owners are involved in human trafficking. See the verdict in the Border Bar-case for proof. State attorney Gibson Jr told the constitutional court that human trafficking is “explicitly prohibited” in the new penal code. That does not explain why the government refused to do something when the Public Prosecutor’s Office asked it to revoke the Border Bar’s permit and to close the place down. It’s a familiar sight: we have the legislation in place but the government would rather fall again instead of enforcing its own legislation.

So now we are waiting until September 13 (yep, that’s a Friday) for the Constitutional Court to rule on all the matters that were brought to its attention yesterday. After that, we’ll have to experience the hemming and hawing of our esteemed Members of Parliament in case the court shoots down some of their wonderful ideas.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Constitutional Court by

Comments are closed.