Tribute to Gene Pestaina
By Dermer Christmas
August 9, 2017 3:20 P.M
Roseau, Dominica (TDN)
Gene Pestaina who has been battling cancer since 2015 has succumbed to his illness and died peacefully at his home surrounded by family. News spread quickly once the word went out and those who knew and loved him well, grappled with the news of his passing. Though we mourn his passing, at the same time we celebrate his life.
Pestaina who started his career as a police officer, was able to pay his way to law school. The first police officer to pursue this course of studies and was very proud of his achievement. Blazing a trail in the law enforcement department of Dominica. Paving a way for many after him.
He managed to excel in his new role and soon moved to rank of DPP. In order to hold this post , the individual must be practicing law for eight years and Mr. Gene Pestaina met all the requirements that qualified him for the Position of Director of Public Prosecutor. It was not without its usual differences of opinion; certain individuals taking issues with some of the tough decisions he made, and his refusal to compromise his basic principles regardless of your station in life.
Like when he was forced to take action following failure of certain Parliamentarians and other public figures to file their declarations by the deadline dated back in 2010. According to the Constitution of Dominica, section 34 to be precise, the DPP holds the power to undertake criminal action against persons in public office under certain conditions.
Pestaina at the time, further explained,” since the Director of Public Prosecutions has the authority under the Constitution for all criminal prosecutions. Section 34.2 of that Act ties in the authority given to the DPP to then examine those reports referred to him… upon examining them he has the moral authority to institute or undertake criminal proceedings against persons in public life,”
Former Director of Public Prosecutions Gene Pestaina.
A fine of $20,000, or imprisonment of up to two years or both fine and imprisonment is the penalty of such an offense. However, he pointed out that the punishment was down to the Magistrate , and calls for his/her discretion with regards to the amount of money imposed.
He was simply dealing with the notice or the information sent to this office by the IPO … Furthermore, had he not taken any action against it, there is a provision in the Constitution whereby the DPP inaction could result in impeachment. It is so designed that if it’s shown his inability to take a certain course of action the president may be advised to establish a Commission Inquiry to look into his inability and so-called impeach him. Therefore, he had no choice but to charge these individuals at the time. (quite a few prominent names were included in that list and it’s not surprising he was later subjected to victimization once he left office).
And who can forget the ‘unpopular’ position he had to take in that case of The Canadian Citizen following that heinous crime in Mahaut . What many didn’t understand at the time, the perpetrator being a Canadian Citizen, one had to comply with the Jurisdiction as protocol dictated.
Overall, Pestaina served well in his capacity as DPP. The Constitution however, has certain provisions: it’s under Section 88 of the Dominica Constitution that a DPP is appointed and after attaining the age of 65, the DPP must demit office. So in Gene Pestaina’s case, he was due to demit office in July 2013.However, a replacement was not readily available causing much confusion in the interim.
Pestaina announced that his stint was coming to an end while Speaking at the sitting of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court that was being held in Dominica at the time. He informed those present,that this was his last sitting before this Honourable Court as DPP before he demit office … “and so I have decided to allow my very capable Juniors to deal with the matters currently before the Court,” he was due to go on retirement leave at the end of April that year and had been holding the post of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), until he officially demitted office in July 2013.
Pestaina had served as a distinguished civil servant in both Antigua and Dominica in public service/ Law enforcement totalling over 38 years by then.
As he neared retirement, there was still a vast amount of knowledge /experience at his disposal, that did not go unnoticed by the other Governments in the Region. So by December 2014, shortly after retiring as DPP, he was appointed Principal Crown Counsel for the Government of Anguilla. This was quite an achievement and accomplished feat. Sadly, it was short-lived. In February 2015 he fell ill and was later diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, he never recovered fully to return to his post. And on July 20th 2017 Gene Pestaina lost his battle with cancer.
I had the pleasure of knowing this remarkable man, a wonderful father whose amazing children, grandchildren and generations to come, will carry on his legacy of excellence.
Gowned in his Robe at the height of his career. The Gene Pestaina we all knew and loved.
As Gene Pestaina departs from this earthly home, we remember that his journey was difficult and perilous but it was his steadfast desire to rise above revenge and vengeful utterances that made it possible for him to be respected at such a level.
Gene accompanied by his wife Judith Pestaina on one of his many trips to Puerto Rico for medical treatment.A constant source of encouragement his rock throughout this ordeal. Truly , devoted companion.