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EDITORIAL - Shouldn't Mr Witter pack his bags?

Published:Friday | January 18, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Removing the public defender for embarrassment, which is what Earl Witter's continued failure to deliver the Tivoli Gardens report has become - to himself and to the country - is not contemplated by the act that establishes the office.

Nor does the law specifically mention incompetence, which people are increasingly concluding to be the cause of Mr Witter's failure. And we could see the case being persuasively argued that incompetence could be embraced in the concept of "infirmity of mind" in an attempt to remove the public defender.

This newspaper is not, at this time, prepared to go that far, or to endorse calls for Mr Witter's removal from the office, a process that would be difficult and potentially messy. For the public defender enjoys similar immunities to a puisne judge and would face similar procedures for his impeachment.

It is time, however, for Mr Witter to consider whether he continues to enjoy the confidence of Jamaicans or has the capacity to regain their trust and that of the Parliament.

More than two years ago, Mr Witter began his investigation into the deaths of at least 73 civilians in Tivoli Gardens when the security forces went to arrest the drug kingpin, Christopher Coke, whose makeshift militia engaged them in gun battles. There were claims of extrajudicial killings, which would bring this matter in the purview of the public defender, whose portfolio includes acting in defence of citizens whose constitutional rights are impinged upon by the State.

Mr Witter has failed to stand by self-imposed deadlines and has repeatedly made excuses for his inability to deliver his report.

We repeat for Mr Witter our analogy of the chamber pot, upon which he has sat for far too long.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.