Monday, July 09, 2007
Next hearing - only 7 days away
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS?
Hearings resume Vancouver Supreme Courtroom 54, Mon. July 16
The trial of Her Majesty the Queen vs Basi, Virk, Basi is the most important trial ever launched in British Columbia. On the surface, it asks the question: were 3 high-level government employees guilty of criminal acts during the auctioning-off of B.C. Rail?
To produce the correct verdict, this trial will have to answer deeper questions: under what circumstances can a government auction off a vital public asset which is a large segment of the provincial infrastructure? What was the protocol? Was the "sale" of B.C. Rail legal?
At least 7 distinct factions are facing off in B.C. Supreme Court:
1) The Judge, the lone figure to whom all evidence and all questions are directed, from whom all decisions and the verdict must eventually come. This method of being tried by a judge alone rather than by a jury of their peers was the choice of the accused. At issue on July 16: Judge Bennett has set this as a deadline for Crown to produce all documents requested by the Defence.
2) The prosecution team. These Crown lawyers must explain the charges and present a convincing case as to why the three men should be found guilty. Special Prosecutors were appointed by the B.C. Attorney General but there have been accusations by defence attorneys that the Bill Berardino, prosecution team leader, has not been as neutral as he should be with the Crown's star witness, Erik Bornmann.
3) The defence team hired by the accused: Basi, Virk, Basi, will challenge every accusation of wrongdoing and will search out every breach of law on the part of the Prosecution team and the RCMP so as to present the three accused men in the best possible light. The defence lawyers' job is to create doubt that the 3 accused men are guilty. In doing so, they may seek to point the finger of guilt at other players.
4) The Accused: Dave Basi, Bobby Virk, Aneal Basi, former top-rank government employees working in the Ministry of Finance and Government House leader, and the Ministry of Transportation.
5) The government, although officially silent, will have their every action pertaining to the auction of B.C. Rail laid out for public scrutiny, to be debated under oath. This is a power factor in everything pertaining to the sale of B.C. Rail.
6) The Public will be hearing many important facts for the first time. The public is welcome to sit silently in Courtroom 54 and listen. Or they can take their chances on finding 600-word fragments of the courtroom proceedings in print or broadcast news. But the best answer would be: TV Cameras transmitting the trial on the B.C. government TV channel so as to let the public see all the witnesses and hear all the evidence, day by day, week by week.
The BCRail trial may last 6 months. Every British Columbian had a stake in B.C. Rail. but many of the people most acutely affected by changes to B.C. Rail live in central and northern B.C., and have ongoing issues with their railway service. They can't possibly afford the time and expense of attending court in Vancouver. Televised courtroom proceedings would be an immense upgrade in civic awareness. There are precedents:
A single camera was allowed into B.C. Supreme Court for the trial of 9 South Korean men charged with people smuggling. "The experiment went well," said the presiding judge.
Also: Supreme Courtroom 20, the so-called Air India courtroom, has video monitors for evidence presentation, voice-activated video cameras, direct broadcast of proceedings to other locations in the courthouse (and presumably onto the Legislature Channel), digital recording and video conferencing.
In other words, B.C. Supreme Court at 800 Smithe Street, Vancouver, is already set up to allow TV to carry the BC Rail trial to every citizen of British Columbia. See photo: www.vancourier.com.issues02/083202/news/083202nn5.html
The B.C. Rail Trial meets the highest test of the public's need to know the facts of its own government. This trial should be televised.
7) The media. Journalists representing newspapers and TV will attend but the public never knows how many journalists will show up, when they'll be in court, what their "take" will be on the trial, how neutral they are, or how they will report the testimony. Televised hearings would be an enormous help in understanding this.
Will there be in-depth coverage of each day's testimony -- especially available to the northern areas once served by B.C. Rail? Will there be a genuine effort made by the media to clarify what transactions led to the auctioning-off of B.C. Rail?
It could be the journalists' dream come true to have courtroom TV filling in the daily background to their in-depth reports.
Some folks simply start off believing this is a nothing event, some see it as a conspiracy or whatever. As Sgt Friday used to say. "Just the facts mam" and that works well. Some more information should show up in accordane with the Judges requirment. D.L
I was thinking later, after posting this item, that it would be really nice if Stuart Chase would put his notes on the Legislature Channel, too.
You know the guy? He sits in the B.C. Rail courtroom on behalf of the Attorney General and takes notes on the proceedings.
Then, twice a day, he faxes them to the Attorney General's office in Victoria.
Well ... wouldn't it be great if he'd allow those faxed reports to inform the public too, in our need to know how the proceedings are unfolding?