An unwanted 50th Independence gift
With a great sense of national pride, our country celebrated its 50th year of Independence on August 31. Admittedly the milestone in itself was sufficient reason for celebration; the achievements of our Olympic athletes, led by our second gold medallist, added to the euphoria. However, amid the pomp and pageantry, Section 34 of the Administration of Justice Indictable Proceedings) Act No 20 of 2011 was foisted upon an unsuspecting populace, like the proverbial thief in the night. The alleged manner of proclamation of this section of the Act raises a number of very serious questions as regards the intentions of its proponents.
Information gleaned from the media suggests certain conditions were to be satisfied before the proclamation of the contentious section. Apparently Hansard bears witness to the promises which were made. The Opposition's claim of preconditions to the proclamation being set is supported by the main partner in the current administration. It is also evident key figures in the legal system were not consulted, seemingly deliberately so, about the offending section.
Accusing fingers are now being pointed at this administration; there are claims of duplicity on its part. Given that financiers of the main partner in the sitting administration stood to benefit from the proclamation of Section 34, the accusations being bandied about are not entirely without substance. While both houses of Parliament must bear the onus for passage of the Act, its proclamation is at the sole discretion of the Cabinet.
The Attorney General can rightly claim he acted swiftly to ensure the offending section was repealed, but given his standing as Senior Counsel, can he rightly claim to be unaware of the consequences of its proclamation? Can the Honourable Prime Minister, herself a Senior Counsel, also make that claim?
Section 34, if allowed to stand, would have the effect of granting freedom from prosecution to among others two gentlemen closely linked to the main coalition partner. While I will not with undue haste impute improper motives to anyone, the facts in this matter speak volumes about the integrity of some who hold high office. It is reasonable to contend, given the available information, that there was the intent to deceive. The fact that the two gentlemen have already sought to have their matters discontinued adds an interesting, if not worrying twist, to the scenario.
One is forced to question whether there was complicity. Experience, it is said, is the greatest teacher. Past occurrences suggest some members of the current administration are prone to being economical with the truth. Once trust is broken, it is not easily repaired. Those in whom our trust is reposed need to be ever mindful of that.
Many gifts were bestowed upon citizens of our country to mark the auspicious occasion of our golden anniversary of Independence, our gold medal at the Olympics and the many national awards. If, given its timing, the proclamation of Section 34 was intended as a gift, it certainly would not redound to the benefit of of Trinidad and Tobago.
In actual fact it has served to bring the highest forum in the land into disrepute. This is one "gift" that is to be returned unopened, with a note attached clearly saying "No Thank You!"