In one of the closing scenes of Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mocking Bird, trial lawyer Atticus Finch walks out of the courtroom after Tom Robinson’s trial. Robinson, a black man, was on trial in a small southern American town, called Maycomb, for allegedly raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. The jury was all white. As expected, Atticus lost. As he walks past the public gallery, the right thinking citizens of Maycomb rise to their feet in unison and one of their number tells Atticus’ daughter, Scout, “Stand Scout, you father’s passing.” The people in the public gallery rose to their feet in tribute to Atticus because they appreciated the fact that although Atticus knew he had a loosing case, he neverthe- less undertook Robinson’s defence. They knew that to Atticus, defending Tom was simply the right thing to do.
Over the past few weeks, Prakash Ramadhar has played the role of Atticus Finch. Knowing he had a loosing battle in the Marlene Coudray affair, he stood his ground. He did so simply because he knew it was the right thing to do. I do not intend to analyse the merits and demerits of his stance, since this issue has been beaten to death by many others, the wise and the unwise, the not so loud and the extremely loud, the political pundits and the political grasshoppers. Some have accused Ramadhar of being motivated by an obscene thirst for power and office. They are forgetful of the fact that this is a man who left a very lucrative career, as one of the best trial lawyers in the country, to do national service in one of the less sought-after ministries. How many would have been willing to give up so much to get so little in return? Our political landscape is witnessing the rise of a leader of a different mould. Ramadhar was prepared to sacrifice his career for the sake of national service. Out of respect for Winston Dookeran he only sought the leadership of his party after Dookeran indicated that he was no longer interested. And now he has stood up for what he believed was right in the Coudray affair.
In the whole mess there was nothing our Prime Minister could do to help Ramadhar. The experts have opined that her hands were tied both politically and legally. But I have no doubt that the Prime Minister is impressed by Ramadhar’s commitment to do what he believes is right rather than to follow the example of many others in our politics who are guided by self-interest and expediency. Many have criticised Ramadhar’s approach. They say that he “boxed himself in.” Well, if standing on the side of your conscience and doing the right thing means “boxing yourself in,” then I hope that Ramadhar’s example would cause many others to “box themselves in.” We need people, especially our politicians, to start “boxing themselves in” up and down the length and breadth of this beautiful country we call home. As the good citizens of Maycomb did for Atticus, the good citizens of this country will no doubt rise in tribute to Ramadhar as he walks by.
Larry N Lalla