By Romell Eubank
Marlene Malahoo-Forte has made great contributions to the legal fraternity, with more than 20 years’ experience. The Manning’s School alumnus and former Head Girl has led a remarkable career, both as an Attorney-at-law and as a Judge. She has served as Parish Court Judge in the Parishes of St. Elizabeth, Kingston and St. Andrew. She previously lectured in Criminal Law Practice & Procedure at the Norman Manley Law School. She is also former Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions and holds a Master of Laws (LLM) Degree in Commercial Laws with further specialty in Financial and Regulatory Laws, a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) (Hons), a Certificate of Legal Education, and a Diploma in International Arbitration.
We cannot dispute the contributions and accomplishments. However, the second-term Attorney General seems to have been making too many blunders and has had too many mishaps as it relates to her utterances and advice (or lack thereof) that might taint her reputation as the respondent in civil and legal matters, which are initiated against the Government of Jamaica.
Our Attorney General has a habit of making statements and utterances that she frequently has to apologize for. She’s human and humans do make mistakes, but as a legal giant, she seems not to be giving careful enough consideration before commenting publicly.
She drew a lot of attention in 2016 when she tweeted: “I strongly condemn the #OrlandoNightClubShooting, but I find it disrespectful of Jamaican laws to have #Rainbowflag flown here. #Mypersonalview”
Her comments were viewed as an incentive and were viewed as bearing no legal reasoning. Mrs. Forte caused Jamaica to be thrown into the spotlight for negative reasons because of her comments made in relation to a flag being flown on the compound of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston in the aftermath of the deadly Orlando Night Club Shooting in the United States. She then backtracked on her comments labelling them as ‘misconstrued’. As a public individual and government representative, she should be mindful of her statements.
In March 2019, Mrs. Forte flopped in her role as a legal advisor to the Prime Minister when he made announcements regarding the East Portland by-election. He named Monday, March 25 as the by-election date and Friday, March 8 as Nomination Day. The date for the by-election was later pushed back to Thursday, April 4, while Nomination Day was pushed back to Friday, March 15. The Attorney General seems to have been missing in action or for whatever other reason, failed to indicate that Ash Wednesday, a public holiday, which was being observed on Wednesday, March 6 would have to be excluded. According to section 21 (1A) of the Representation of the People Act, a public holiday is an “excluded day”.
Under the legislation, Nomination Day must be held five clear days after the announcement and based on the date of the first announcement, this requirement would not have been met and hence the dates were changed. As the point guard responsible for maintaining a good legal reputation for the government, she failed to perform her role.
She has signalled her intention to appeal the ruling of Supreme Court Judge Justice Bertram Morrison that the detention of five men under the states of emergency (SOE) was unlawful. Instead of pursuing this case she should get back to the drawing board, review the Constitution and make legal recommendations so that this government will not be known for breaching the constitutional rights of our citizens.
Mrs. Forte is a very talented individual but I believe her talents should be used otherwise. She would do great work as Minister of Justice where she could be tasked with the responsibility of maintaining and improving the justice system in an area where she has served. The Prime Minister should find a suitable replacement for the Attorney General’s office. Change is needed now!
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