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Jan 22, 2002

Attorney General cited for contempt

Story Picture
Shockwaves rippled from the Supreme Court today as a series of events threatened to further complicate and even cripple the already controversial constitutional case of George Meerabux. It began on Monday when Attorney General Godfrey Smith, took the podium at the ceremonial opening of the Supreme Court and made several comments about the Meerabux case, calling it, “a sordid constitutional application”. Later that day, the presiding judge on the case, Justice Christopher Blackman indicated that he planned to call Smith before his court to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt.

True to his word, this morning Blackman asked the marshal to call Smith’s name three names outside the courtroom. But Smith was a no-show. Blackman then launched into a prepared speech aggressively responding to Smith’s comments. “I find the remarks of the Attorney General yesterday, made after the very cogent and timely admonition by the learned Chief Justice, reprehensible and contemptible,” he said, “It was offensive in the extreme that the Attorney General should make comments about a matter which is sub judice, a matter in which his office is a party as the respondent and suggest that there will be governmental displeasure if I decide the case in a particular way.” Blackman went on to say that, “In their natural and ordinary meaning, his words are calculated to affect my impartiality adversely. I most strongly deprecate the conduct of the A.G. What is the judiciary to do when its traditional defender becomes the one who seeks to undermine its integrity and launches an attack on its independence?”

This afternoon, the Attorney General replied, sending out a press release defending his actions. Smith wrote that he has been advised his statements “neither constitute a contempt of court nor can readily be interpreted as an attack on the independence of the judiciary. I state categorically that my observations were never calculated to suggest that there will be governmental displeasure if the case is decided in a particular way.” Finally, in an attempt to put an end to the affair, the normally talkative A.G. declared, “I consider this matter closed and will make no further comment on it.” But Wilfred Elrington, one of the attorneys representing former Justice Meerabux, suggests the A.G. is already regretting his words.

Wilfred Elrington, Attorney for Meerabux

“The attack, the statements, that the Attorney General made, to my mind, will always haunt him for the rest of his life, because all this judge is doing is exercising his constitutional right. Whether you like it or not, whether you liked what he did or not, he is merely exercising the right that is guaranteed to all of us by the constitution. And for the government representative to describe that right as a sordid constitutional application, I am sure that Mr. Smith regrets, at this point in time, having made that. And I attribute it largely to the fact that maybe he hadn’t given enough thought to it and that he’s a fairly young man and not experienced in these matters.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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