Public Versus Private Hearings (Or: Secret Secrets)

Cover-ups of abuse have enraged people almost as much as the original abuse.

The culture of cover-up has not been given up by most of the abusive organisations despite protestations to the contrary. Government is also addicted to cover-up under high-sounding excuses such as national interest. Corporations have not exactly been forthcoming with honest information when a scandal arises.

It might be said that the notion of the cover-up is rampant in society, at least in its major institutions. It is therefore not entirely a paranoid viewpoint to suggest that the potential of a cover-up, or whitewash, exists in the Royal Commission process. The only way to allay fears in this regard is to have total transparency.

Clearly, there will be some matters which are not available to the general public, such as the identity of victims. However, close attention is needed to the stated reasons for confidentiality to ensure processes for privacy are not abused.

The fact that the Irish Commission protected the identities of abusers is a very real example of what can go wrong when this principle is not given due consideration. People need to have very clear in their minds, what should and should not be publicly available. This will occasionally be different from the view of the commissioners. Hence, people need to have their arguments ready and to give them forcefully to the commissioners as part of the normal processes of the enquiry.

In many cases, proceedings should be televised. Parts of the hearings involving argument between the representatives of the organisations and of the victims certainly should be televised. Claims of “trial by media” and the “court of public opinion” disadvantaging the organisations which have harboured abusers, can be dismissed when there is evidence of potential for further cover-ups.

Victims have had trust abused as well as their bodies. It would be the ultimate disgrace if the commissioners were to re-abuse victims’ trust by going along with suspect appeals to “privacy”. Consequently, there must be a well-defined appeal process when this factor is invoked by commissioners, particularly at the urging of the culpable organisations.

TOMORROW: Allocations between commissioners

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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