I am reminded of the words of Nobel prize winning economist and philosopher Amartya Sen in his acclaimed book: The Idea of Justice (2009). He writes:
"Three children are squabbling over who should get to keep a flute. Anne claims the instrument on the grounds that she is the only one of the three who knows how to play it."
"The second child Bob, says that he should have it, because he is so poor that he has no other toys to play with."
"Finally Carla claims that the flute should be hers, because it was she who made it."
"On the face of it, each of the three children has a plausible claim so arbitrating fairly between them will require careful negotiation and close scrutiny of all the relevant circumstances."
"Ultimately, the decision will depend on the relative weight given to the needs of the three children and to such matters as artistic expression and the relief of poverty."
The point made by Sen through the fable is there is no answer that is absolutely and objectively right. A decision that is fair and acceptable to all cannot be reached at the level of principle alone in the absence of public debate and reasoning.
However injustices can be removed and justice enhanced if we engage in public debate and make comparisons of actual lives.
Few politicians would stand up and argue the case for inequality.
We have some ticklish issues to determine as policy-makers and decisions have to be made on tough issues. Are some people less entitled to justice because of choices made?
Does expediency and friendship come before ensuring there is a level playing-field?
In times of economic challenge should we not enshrine some reform of legislation for those whose businesses are at risk of insolvency.
Whose rights merit greater protection, when considering age discrimination, the youth or seniors. Is it justice to decide to use a referendum model and is it not just to provide equality of opportunity for parental rights.
We are here today to salute upholding the rule of law- not the law of the jungle.
We are also here to recognise the separation of functions between the role of the judiciary and executive powers and to support those measures that reinforce the separation of powers. This extends to the budgetary process.
I end as I began.
Thank you for choosing Bermuda to hold this Conference. I join with all others in wishing you a productive and constructive Conference.