Monday, January 22, 2018

AG: Hodge could have submitted minority report

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday said if Dr Merle Hodge had disagreed with any recommendations made by the Constitution Reform Commission of which she was a member she could have submitted a minority report, recording her dissent with reasons.

This did not happen, he said.

Yesterday, Hodge responded to Ramlogan’s criticism of her call for today’s debate in the House of Representatives to be stopped. This was the lead story in Friday’s Express (August 8). Ramlogan questioned why Hodge was now raising the issue when she herself had signed off on the document. As a commissioner, Ramlogan said, Hodge had been “handsomely paid” to serve. Yesterday, in the Sunday Express Hodge’s response was “I can’t be bought”.

In a statement issued yesterday the Attorney General sought to clear the air on the context of his criticism. Ramlogan said: “Dr Hodge was part of a Commission that submitted a unanimous report to the Government after a year of public consultations and meetings. If she disagreed with a recommendation, she had the responsibility and option of doing a minority report and recording her dissent with reasons. She did not.

“It is against this backdrop that I said that I found Dr Hodge’s sudden change of heart to be curious. “The country was entitled to assume that issues relating to constitutional reform were carefully discussed, deliberated upon and analysed by all commissioners before they submitted their recommendations to the Cabinet.

They should have considered public sentiment, the possible repercussions and ramifications, and whether it was in the best interest of the country. “I am loath to think that Commissioners of such eminent stature would have failed to properly evaluate the implications and consequences of their recommendations such that they would simply capitulate in the face of political pressure from a select few.

“The criticisms about the right of recall and consequential run-off elections were easy to predict. It must therefore be a matter of concern that instead of defending, justifying and explaining its recommendations, a member of the commission would suddenly seek to distance herself from it. “The Government was not privy to the discussions and internal working of the commission. It received what it considered to be a report from a body of professionals and acted upon it in good faith.

“This was a publicly financed commission and the public was entitled to expect that the recommendations for constitutional reform submitted to the Government were carefully considered and in the national interest. At no time did I imply that Commissioners were paid to be silent or that they were bought off. The pompous and self-righteous indignation was therefore unnecessary and uncalled for and respectfully, misses the mark.”