The Senator, who heads the Public Accounts Committee and is the senior Scrutiny chairman, has described the sitting as a circus and says that it is being convened merely to serve the interests of a group of ‘errant politicians’ whom he accuses of setting themselves above the law.
However, even if the public is becoming increasingly frustrated by the way in which States Members are tending to concentrate on themselves and their own disagreements rather than on the many more important issues that are facing the Island, tomorrow’s sitting should not be dismissed quite as easily as Senator Shenton suggests.
The single proposition before the House does, in fact, focus on vital matters of genuine concern even if it deals with the specific case of a single Member, Senator Stuart Syvret. The implications of Senator Syvret’s arrest and treatment connected with alleged Data Protection Law offences raise important questions about civil liberties, policing and the rights of all Islanders notwithstanding their status or standing in public life.
It is legitimate for our legislature to address such fundamental concerns – not least because the Island lacks a police authority independent of political control which might otherwise consider such knotty problems.
It is, meanwhile, questionable whether Senator Shenton should unilaterally decide what constitutes legitimate States business. The emergency sitting has been called for under rarely used rules, but the frequency with which these rules are invoked has no bearing on their legitimacy. If the rules were being bent, the sitting would not be taking place.
It can certainly be argued that Senator Shenton’s duty as an elected and paid States Member is to attend States sittings even if he personally considers them to be a waste of time. Turning up for the debate would, at the very least, allow him to air his doubts about the process and about the substantive issues fully and frankly.
He might, for example, choose to point to one feature of the debate that is most definitely a cause for concern – its timing. The matters to be discussed are without doubt of major significance, but can it really be appropriate to consider them before the full circumstances surrounding Senator Syvret’s arrest and detention have emerged?