Cloud still hangs over Ramlogan
The AG was away on vacation."
That was the best defence of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar could mount in her address to the people of Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday night, when she gave what was supposed to be a full explanation of the Section 34 fiasco.
The Prime Minister fell far short of clarifying all the questions surrounding this scandalous imbroglio, and while she must be commended for removing Herbert Volney as Justice Minister, sterner action is definitely required. The mere absence of Mr Ramlogan from the country from July 20 to August 4 does not absolve him of responsibility in this matter. Indeed, while the principle of collective responsibility means that all Cabinet members are culpable, the Attorney-General is particularly so, since it is he who is the government's legal adviser. That means he has to ensure that the administration does not break the law in letter or in principle.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar in her speech outlined what appears to be a deliberate and calculated programme by Mr Volney to deceive his Cabinet colleagues. But, if Mr Volney was able to fool the Attorney-General in this manner, it means that the latter could be perceived as lacking.
On the other hand, a significant section of public opinion, rightly or wrongly, believes that Mr Ramlogan should be held to account also for the early proclamation of Section 34.
In the political sense, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar must realise that her Attorney-General failed to sound a warning when the Bill was debated in the Lower House, in the Upper House, and when the Cabinet note was brought to the table. He was present on all these occasions, yet failed to understand (or appeared to fail to understand) the implications of Section 34. He therefore failed the Prime Minister, the Parliament, and the citizens.
In her speech, Ms Persad-Bissessar grandly declared, "There is no political consideration, no personal ambition, greater than public confidence in the good governance of our nation." Yet she is the one who presented Mr Volney during the 2010 elections as a plum prize to contest the St Joseph seat, she is the one who appointed the spectacularly unsuitable Therese Baptiste-Cornelis as Health Minister and then ambassador to Geneva, and she is the one who chose Jack Warner to be National Security Minister despite the many questions of character bedevilling him.
If she now continues to repose confidence in Mr Ramlogan, Ms Persad-Bissessar will further undermine the people's already diminished confidence in both good governance and in her.