in the senate
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has advised Justice Minister Emmanuel George to not reveal the correspondence he received from the Chief Justice, with respect to his input on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Prisons) Bill.
At the Senate sitting on Tuesday, George disclosed he received a letter from Chief Justice Ivor Archie which was dated December 23, 2013, containing the comments of the judiciary on the bill.
George added the CJ expressed concern over making HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing compulsory in prisons as this would be affecting a person’s constitutional right.
Some Independent and Opposition senators immediately expressed concern over George’s revelation of the CJ’s letter and input and asked if the letter would be disclosed in its entirety, to which George said he would comply.
In winding up the debate of the bill yesterday in the Senate, George said he never intended to bring embarrassment to the CJ or judiciary, or give the impression they were out of line.
“Let me make it quite clear that at no time was the judiciary involved in the drafting of this legislation, but we did consult with certain agencies who we consider stakeholders in the matter and, for the record, let me say that I regret if at all my comments here created an embarrassing situation for the Chief Justice, but the fact is that was not the intention at all,” said George.
George said he wanted to stress all stakeholders were consulted on the bill.
However, during the committee stage of the bill, a new debate unfolded on the issue.
Independent Senator Helen Drayton reiterated her concerns and Opposition Senator Camille Robinson-Regis asked whether the letter from the CJ would be made available to the Senate as indicated by George.
Ramlogan responded, calling on senators to not demean institutions and the CJ’s letter was not necessary for the support of the legislation.
“I have since advised the honourable Minister of Justice that we need to pause for a cause. I am
not prepared to sanction
or authorise the disclosure of sensitive corres-
pondence sent in good faith that should remain sacrosanct,” said the AG.
Robinson-Regis said the Opposition has no intention to demean any institution but was asking based on George’s earlier willingness to reveal the letter.
Independent Senator Anthony Vieira said it was unfortunate the matter was picked up by the media and “distorted”—referring to the front-page report in yesterday’s Guardian.
“I found that the criticisms that were levelled against the minister yesterday were unfair and unfounded,” said Vieira, adding he understood George’s position on try-
ing to explain that he con-
sulted with all stakeholders.