Letters to the Editor

To answer or not to answer a 'fool'

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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Dear Editor,

If I ever had any doubts about the continuing validity of the book of Proverbs and other biblical perspectives these would have been eliminated by the latest development in the ongoing acting chief justice appointment saga — the protest action and post-administrative meeting statement from 97 of Jamaica's most learned judges.

Jumping irresistibly from the book of Proverbs is the instruction: “Answer not a fool according to his folly... lest you be like him...” (Proverbs 26:4, KJV)

The judges' actions, in the circumstances, also demonstrate just how easy it is for people who are seen as “wise and learned” — or who profess themselves to be wise — to become 'fools' and/or to make fools of themselves. (Romans 1:22)

For the record, a fool, in this context, is not a stupid or idiotic person, but simply one who “does not know”, or who might be “...slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken...” , or one who “says in his heart there is no God...” (Psalm 14:1/Psalm 53:1)

So here's my reading of the situation and why the whole thing has served to increase my respect for and belief in the ongoing relevance of properly understood scriptural principles and perspectives.

If Prime Minister Holness was 'foolish' or wrong, in words and/or deed, in appointing Bryan Sykes as acting chief justice, as the learned judges et al suggest and clearly believe, then by “answering him” in the way they did — locking down the courts, without notice or warning, at 10:00 am on a Monday to facilitate an administrative meeting and subsequent official statement — they were clearly “answering according to his folly”.

They should therefore not be surprised at the overwhelming negative perception and commentary, indicating that their action is seen as no better than the prime minister's folly. In answering according to the prime minister's folly they are seen as being “like him” in his folly — or worse.

In the circumstances, therefore, the prime minister and Acting chief justice Sykes now have two clear and interesting choices. Any or both of these may be exercised, by prior agreement, separately or in association with each other, with full respect for their separate roles, responsibilities and powers.

(1) To “answer not” the learned judges and assorted well-meaning and/or fearful (of “negative political consequences”) and/or malicious critics and professional and unprofessional commentators, according to their folly: thus avoiding the danger of “being like them” in their folly — leaving them to stew and wallow until, in due course, the prime minister formally appoints (perhaps, as opposed to “confirming”) Sykes as chief justice, or until the matter is finally legally settled by the Privy Council or other qualified higher court; or

(2) They may, in their wisdom, choose to observe the principle that is expounded in the second part of Proverbs 26:4, which says: “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”

C Anthony

Kingston 10


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