Editorial, The Supreme Court doesn’t help if it delays

candles on the court steps
Candles on the high court’s steps. Photo from the @sinmineria Twitter feed.

Due process should be had, but the court should rule on the basic issue right away

Will First Quantum send in a doctor’s note and move for a six months’ or more delay in the Supreme Court proceedings? Have they already bribed enough magistrates, and now it’s just a matter of them looking like they are seriously considering serious issues? Will we have to wait for all 10 constitutional challenges to be duly argued and considered point-by-point until a decision is made?

Actually, there are good reasons for an unhurried consideration of all issues presented. Even more than that: the court ought to sua sponte initiate a debate about contempt of court, whether or not it can be entertained as a criminal matter without prosecutorial intervention.

The court, long ago with a previous set of magistrates, already ruled that the original concession from which First Quantum’s claims derive, was unconstitutionally granted. No less to a guy who’s fighting a fraud conviction and 10-year prison sentence for it. Nothing done since has cured the defects cited in the prior judgment.

So, res judicata — the thing has already been decided. Everything is there for the Supreme Court to issue a binding and lasting order that the First Quantum concession is unconstitutional and to order that the company cease operations forthwith.

Yet in all of the constitutional challenges brought before the court in this matter, there are weighty things that ought to be considered. Even if precedent counts for relatively little in Panama’s Civil Code system of law. Even if considering matters not necessary to the resolution of the case breaks with the tradition of judicial economy, of not wasting time on side issues that become moot. What this PRD and allies administration and legislature have done violates Panamanian commitments in international treaties about due process and proper hearings about environmental matters. It involves gross perversions of legislative procedures. In violation of the Panamanian constitution, it gives a foreign corporation more rights than a Panamanian citizen. We have a company intimidating the nation and the court with the threat of endless and expensive proceedings before international panels. Better if the courts took however many weeks needed, and issued a comprehensive final ruling that addresses all of the points that have been raised.

The problem is that the country has been inflamed, not by a few commie radicals but by an abusive company and corrupt and incompetent public officials Take the colonial mine contract proposal off of the table and there are still broken promises to teachers. There is still the legacy of gross mismanagement of the public purse that has public hospitals short on supplies and ongoing public works projects stalled. Basic issues of human rights for indigenous people and the co-sovereignty of their communities and of the Republic of Panama have yet to be sorted out. The strikers are not to be divided, yet the issues behind the strike are divisible.

But first things first — this historic but debilitating strike does not end unless the mining colony contract and law definitively dies. This conflict needs to end, and not with First Quantum prevailing due to Panama’s exhaustion.

In the interests of the nation’s peace and prosperity the court must promptly rule on the basic thing, that the mining colony is unconstitutional, and the other branches of government and the mining company must respect that.

Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.

Jane Austen

Bear in mind…

We must give lengthy deliberation to what has to be decided once and for all.

Publilius Syrus

Law is the embodiment of the moral sentiment of the people.

William Blackstone

If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody come sit next to me.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth


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