When this UNC-led Government is laid to rest, committed to the dust of modern political history, and the Prime Minister sits down to reflect on her time as the head of it, I hope she realises then—because she seems nowhere close to acknowledging it now—that one of her worst decisions was to appoint Anand Ramlogan as Attorney General.
Well, perhaps not so much the appointment. One could argue that in May 2010 the choice of Mr Ramlogan was not as immaculately poor as it has turned out to be. At the time, Mr Ramlogan had developed a well-deserved reputation as a litigator on behalf of vulnerable people, a fierce defender of equal rights, a bright young man who started off humbly in humble Williamsville and who educated himself to return to fight injustice meted out in large helpings to other humble folk.
Two cases he fought straight to the Privy Council—the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) against the AG on the Trinity Cross and the SDMS against the AG concerning the then government’s refusal to grant a broadcast licence to Radio Jagriti—remain notable victories on his resume.
So the PM’s appointment of Mr Ramlogan—although many had their eyes on Prakash Ramadhar or Gillian Lucky for the post—was not very worrisome back in May 2010.
But the PM’s decision to keep Mr Ramlogan for this long is a mystery to me. Mr Ramlogan has never won a parliamentary seat in an election and has no political base. He has, therefore, little political value and is politically expendable. He contested a seat—Tabaquite—once in 2007 under a COP banner, lost to the UNC’s Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, and by 2010 had left the COP and signed on with the UNC.
He has been allowed by the Prime Minister to inflict all manner of abuses on the population that she selected him to serve with reasonable nobility and honour.
Recently Mr Ramlogan has been spewing mouthfuls that update his unsuitability.
From early o’clock fine legal and academic minds were saying that Mr Ramlogan’s anti-gang legislation was flawed. Senior Counsel Martin Daly labelled it as untested in the courts; the DPP dropped charges against 53 people charged under the Act during the SoE; former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj described it as “flawed”; criminologist Randy Seepersad said the Act seemed to be strengthening criminal gangs rather than deterring them.
To date, that piece of legislation has had no positive effect on crime fighting; it has been successfully deployed against only one person. The obvious conclusion is that Mr Ramlogan failed, again. But, as tenacious as a pitbull, he has returned, two years later, to suggest even more brutish amendments to the Act that would reverse the burden of proof—he wants people arrested and then they have to prove they are not gang members.
The Dominica model he quoted, it seems, either does not exist or is a dated piece of prejudice.
The soldiers’ bill is another one of his ideas that has not gained support in the legislature. He referenced that this week too, talking about returning to that bill because the only objection to it was that soldiers were trained to kill. That, of course, is not now and was not then the only objection. It is dishonest and disrespectful of Mr Ramlogan to reduce all that was said by members of the pubic, by Opposition members in the Lower House and by the Independent Senators who spent long sessions on it to that single objection. Nuance, it appears, is too delicate a concept for Mr Ramlogan.
In one work-week, he churned out amendments to the Anti-Gang Act, suggested the reintroduction of the soldiers’ bill, and climaxed his daftness with the death penalty: “…the idea that it [the death penalty] is a deterrent is second tier. The idea for me that is first tier is that the people who are the victims, who have lost their father and mother and so on, are entitled to the retribution they seek and the court is entitled to have its order carried out.”
The same ole silliness about the death penalty being law therefore it has to be executed is a nonsense argument and Mr Ramlogan must know that.
Last month, T&T’s Attorney General was in Chaguanas West for that constituency’s by-election. What was the country’s AG doing there? That is another recent question that remains open. And why does his security detail include non-police officers? Who is paying for these private security officers? Even if these questions could be satisfactorily answered, did I hear the AG on television say that the man whose ankle his security vehicle ran over was drunk?
These updated examples build on Mr Ramlogan’s early missing-piano embarrassment. And of course the 2011 state of emergency laid bare his deficient politicking through the office of the AG. A dismal failure, the SoE was touted by Mr Ramlogan as successful because few crimes were committed during the period. I quote PNM MP Fitzgerald Hinds for the first time in his life and mine: saying that is like boasting that one has lost weight in a famine. Perhaps the gentleman who was hiding in a bathroom at the PM’s Philippine home when the SoE was announced could one day help the public better understand the real reasons for that dramatic and failed strategy.
If the SoE was not sufficient reason for the PM to dismiss or reassign him, surely Section 34 was. Asking MPs to “man up”—presumably even the women parliamentarians—did not deflect from the fact that Mr Ramlogan is T&T’s AG and the Government’s legal adviser. He had to take responsibility for the passage and proclamation of Section 34. His defence that he is not a criminal lawyer is so hollow as to echo into the next decade.
Reshuffle or no reshuffle, a significant part of the PM’s inglorious legacy will be an abusive, intemperate and disrespectful attorney general that she has imposed on the country.