Opposition Spokesman on National Security, Peter Bunting, has warned that the independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Paula Llewellyn, has been compromised to the extent that “every decision that the DPP makes going forward will be questioned”.
Of her future rulings, Bunting said Jamaicans will be asking “Is this really the best independent judgment of a prosecutor or is it (of) one who is beholden to a particular administration?”
He was speaking Wednesday at a People’s National Party (PNP) press conference at the party’s Old Hope Road headquarters in St Andrew where the decision by the Government on Tuesday to increase the age at which the DPP retires from 60 to 65, without consultation with the Opposition, has set tongues wagging as to the real intent of the government.
Of note is that Llewellyn, who should have demitted office in 2020, benefitted then from a three-year extension which expires on September 20 this year. That extension was granted despite strong objections from then Opposition leader, Dr Peter Phillips.
On Tuesday, there were similar objections in the House of Representatives from Opposition members of Parliament when Justice Minister Delroy Chuck piloted a bill that amended sections 96(1) and 121(1) of the constitution. The amendments move the retirement age for the DPP and the Auditor General (AG) from 60 to 65. Both the DPP and AG Pamela Monroe Ellis could now remain in office until age 70 as the Governor-General, under special circumstances, could further extend the retirement age for the office holder.
Bunting said his comments were framed in the context of what he described as the “extraordinary criticism of the Integrity Commission by the DPP in recent months”.
In June, the DPP urged caution on the part of entities designed to hold public officials to account. Her comments were made as the public disagreements between the Integrity Commission and members of the political directorate, in particular Government members, were mounting.
Speaking in Mandeville at the time, Llewlleyn said, among other things that “As the head of any entity that has the power to make negative or adverse decisions against anybody, which may negatively affect their reputation or their liberty, it is critical that you are fair and that your processes are transparent and can stand up to scrutiny”.
According to Bunting, her criticism “seemed to support the assault by various members of Parliament and ministers of government on the Integrity Commission itself”.
“So it is deeply regretted that this office will now; every decision it makes to prosecute, to not prosecute, particularly when it comes to, for example, those six parliamentarians who are supposedly under investigation (by the Integrity Commission) for illicit enrichment, all of these will be questioned and second-guessed as to whether partisanship is coming into play and that is regrettable,” Bunting remarked.