Please go, Mr AG, and take Volney with you
Congratulations, Mr Attorney General, on your incredible feat of legal legerdemain—it was very impressive!
In 2010 electioneering was in full swing when I returned to this little island state of T&T after 20 long years abroad. I encountered an atmosphere of incredible euphoria, hope and high expectations.
Those pie-in-the-sky promises of openness and transparency, fairness and equality for all citizens, no corruption, no nepotism. "We will all rise" was the slogan. Remember that?
Sir, what happened after those heady days and the People's Partnership landslide victory?
The first significant event which confirmed the adage about absolute power ... was the 20+ step promotion of that woefully unqualified and inexperienced Reshmi Ramnarine.
You, Sir, were a successful firebrand lawyer in your heyday and now, you are the country's legal representative.
Now we have this debacle on Section 34 of the Indictable Proceedings Act for which you are wholly and solely responsible. Sordid, distasteful, and egregious is how I would describe it.
Am I imputing improper motives, Sir, when I say that keeping the other side busy with badly written legislation and amendments during unbearably long hours is an extremely effective distraction?
If that is so, I humbly apologise for misjudging you. I have no problem admitting my mistakes.
I suffered through the sturm und drang last Wednesday during the special sitting of Parliament to repeal Section 34 awaiting answers but nothing credible was forthcoming to the questions:
Why did you, Mr Attorney General, assent to the surreptitious extraction and early proclamation of Clause 34?
Why was the amended version not submitted to the LRC and the DPP for review?
Your sacred duty is to uphold the laws and the rights of all citizens because the Section 34 seemed skewed to benefit specific individuals.
As a very sharp attorney, kindly advise on why fraud, corruption and other white collar crimes are not listed in Schedule 6?
It is highly commendable that Minister Volney and your good self have talked about the "poor man" and his rights under Section 34. For your edification, I quote the eminent and highly regarded Dana Seetahal, SC, on this issue. "As for the law being for the poor man who was locked up for ten years—that is so much hogwash. Section 34 never benefited those charged with murder, sexual offences, drug trafficking or robbery, the crimes for which persons are most often on remand and not on bail (indeed for murder there is no bail).
The persons who stood to benefit from that law were those charged with fraud, corruption, terrorism, all serious larcenies and such—offences not generally committed by the "poor man" ... Saturday Express, The Scandal of Section 34, 15 September 2012, pg 13.
It is unfortunate that the Opposition PNM dropped the ball when it failed to notice that those accused of white collar crimes would be the main beneficiaries of this Section 34.
Sir, both you and Minister Volney have failed miserably in the sacred trust placed in you.
I would suggest to the Prime Minister that she begin her working day much earlier to assist her in circumventing the wayward train of her ministers.
Mr Attorney General, you clearly contradicted Minister Volney's express assurances that no part of the Indictable Proceedings Act will be enacted and proclaimed until the Rules governing it are in place. The Hansard records are available for your edification.
In the Express of 15 September 2012, you are quoted as saying "… bringing it (statutory limitation issue) as a subsection in a law to address a difficult problem, explained why it was overlooked by the Parliament".
Sir, that is a particularly offensive statement. Am I then to infer that our parliamentarians are idiots? I take umbrage at that.
Your government's disingenuous statements and specious arguments on Section 34 are obviously aimed at the vapid, venal and illiterate and the majority of Trinbagonians, I can assure you Sir, do not fall into this category. We are not stupid!
The effect of this travesty you and the People's Partnership government have perpetrated on us and its repeal will be with us for years to come. You have single-handedly brought this country into disrepute.
You have also crushed the hopes of those who deserved the type of justice Section 34 was meant to serve.
I put it to you, Sir, that it was the US Embassy's statements on the proclamation of Section 34 which allowed Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson to petition for a plea of not guilty, together with the unanimous and thunderous outcry from the public that forced the Prime Minister to act.
We have been informed by so-called Cabinet sources, previously deafeningly silent, that Minister Volney "pushed for Section 34". I believe that is called being hung out to dry.
In the Sunday Express of September 16, 2012, Minister Volney is quoted as saying (on calls for his resignation), "I don't see that there is a groundswell of opposition. I think the public perception is that Parliament overlooked the possible repercussions of a good, well-intentioned law, but mindful of the opposition it was repealed".
If the Prime Minister really cares about justice, she would fire you both. If you still embody even a modicum of self-respect, you would offer your mea culpa and resign.
Kindly take Minister Volney with you, along with the other Cabinet members who assented to this travesty of justice.
Port of Spain