In the Letters to the Editor column of The Nassau Guardian’s March 31 edition, a letter by the Rev. Dr. J. Emmette Weir appeared under the caption “Why holding a wedding in a police station is wrong”. The distinguished reverend gentleman, in his opening segment, asked readers whether he is an angel or a fool to cross swords with that distinguished legal luminary, Wayne Munroe, on such a legalistic matter.
Reverend, I cannot and will not pass judgment on your angelic qualifications; but I will, with all sincerity, acknowledge that you are not a fool in any sense of the word. Wayne Munroe is an intellectual and a criminal lawyer par excellence, but he is first, like all of us, a human being, and as such, is subject to err.
The subject of this debate, which has been dominating the news for a number of days, seems to hinge on a religious ritual – marriage – and the proper venue for such a ritual. Munroe’s view as a defense lawyer is that there is nothing laid down in any doctrine, rule or law that defines the venue for such a ceremony and he is absolutely correct. If we go back in history, we will find any number of modes used in the execution of this ritual, including the tying of hands with string, the holding of hands and jumping together over a broom held by two participants, the father of the bride presenting his daughter to the groom and asking, “Do you take this woman to be your wedded wife?” The rituals over the centuries and in many countries have changed, but still there is nothing in writing or in the traditions of the Christian faith that names a venue for the performance of the ritual.
Munroe’s opinion on the subject of a venue, according to law, is correct; but in my humble opinion Munroe, in this case, missed the commissioner of police’s point completely in three areas: (1) The groom, because of his arrest, was at the time deprived of a number of privileges that he would have enjoyed had he not been under arrest; (2) he therefore had no legal right to make such a decision; and (3) he would have to obtain permission from the person who had the legal authority to grant such a request.
The reverend doctor dealt with this segment of the saga in a brilliant and detailed manner. I am not a lawyer and do not profess to be one, but it is common knowledge that custom or Common Law is stronger than written law. As my friend Wayne Munroe pointed out to me, that there is nothing in the law or any other edict that he knows of that says where a marriage should not take place. Again he is correct; but tradition in the Christian culture has been – and still is in more than 75% of all marriages – that the ritual is to be celebrated in churches or other places of worship.
As a police officer and later a politician, I have seen a goodly piece of this planet called Earth, attended many a marriage ceremony in many countries and participated in a few of my own, but I have not seen or heard of one being conducted in a police station. From newspaper reports, I surmise that the commissioner of police gave specific instructions forbidding such a spectacle from being conducted in a police facility. I also gather from media reports that outside interference was apparently a factor in an officer’s blatant disobedience of a lawful order by the police commissioner, the only man in this archipelago responsible for all aspects of the force and its facilities. The incident also ranks as insubordination in its highest form. Those responsible should be dealt with in short order. The Commissioner of Police is constitutionally appointed and the politicians and their agents should distance themselves from interference in the administration of the RBPF.
By: Errington Watkins