Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Al-Rawi to Ramadhar: I won’t step down from JSC

Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi has said he has no intention of stepping down as a member of the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee (JSC).

Congress of the People (COP) political leader Prakash Ramadhar yesterday issued a release stating Al-Rawi’s presence on the JSC was a conflict of interest.

Al-Rawi is a member of the JSC which interviewed members of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) including its chairman, Gillian Lucky, last week where the contentious issue of the leak of the PCA’s Flying Squad report was discussed.

Al-Rawi has been in a hot seat after disclosing in Parliament that he anonymously received copies of the reports into the Flying Squad which Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said was tantamount to treason.

Ramadhar stated yesterday that Al-Rawi as an attorney should have known better since he himself spoke on the report.

“Despite the positions stated by PCA director Gillian Lucky in response to the JSC’s questions on the leaking of the report, the position in the PCA Act is clear that all information and evidence obtained by the authority in the performance of its function under this Act is confidential. And a leak of such information is an important, even possibly, criminal matter,” Ramadhar stated.

“As a person who benefited from such a leak, Mr Al-Rawi would have known that to sit on the JSC when that matter was being discussed was not proper political conduct. Conflict of interest is not a matter of bias in legal terms. All persons in public political office must be particularly careful to avoid such situations,” he added.

Ramadhar said the COP has consistently called for those in public political life who find themselves in positions of conflict, even apparent conflict, to remove themselves. 

“This principle applies across the political divide. We must all uphold the highest standards of conduct in political activities,” stated Ramadhar.

However, speaking to the Express by phone, Al-Rawi said Ramadhar failed to identify any substantial conflict of interest.

Al-Rawi said if Ramadhar was to be taken seriously, then no Government minister should ever sit on any Joint Select Committee because it is a fundamental principle of English Westminster practice that line ministers are strictly prohibited from interrogating and interviewing entities which fall in their portfolio.

“By this practice for instance, Marlene Coudray as Minister of Local Government could not have sat on the JSC which recently interviewed the Municipal Corporations falling under her portfolio,” said Al-Rawi.

“Further, Mr Ramadhar ought to know that Ms (Carolyn) Seepersad-Bachan would also have an obvious conflict of interest in interviewing Ms Lucky because of familial relations. He has said none of this, putting himself in an obvious embarrassment through a portrayal of a lack of sophistication of thought and a poor application of law and parliamentary practice and procedure,” he added.

Ramadhar, he said, should be busy speaking to the contents of the reports of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and the PCA.

“The existence of an extra judicial rogue Flying Squad frightens us in the PNM and one can only wonder why he has no concern for it,” said Al-Rawi.