Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said yesterday the Court of Appeal judgment vindicated Government’s claim that the entire Parliament was guilty of oversight when it passed the Section 34 legislation.
“Today has been a day of vindication and victory for the State. The Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgment rejected every argument raised by the appellants (Steve Ferguson and Ameer Edoo) in the Section 34 constitutional motion...This is a very important and significant victory and it provides independent verification and support for what the Government has been saying from day one- and that is — the attempt by those who are bent on creating political mischief in society to make this out as though it was some malicious sinister orchestrated plan is simply hypocritical, baseless and malicious,” the AG said at a press conference shortly after judgment was delivered by the Appeal Court.
Ramlogan cited paragraph 29 of the “comprehensive and well reasoned” judgment which stated: “There is justification in the Hansard Report for the trial judge’s assertions of the AG’s affidavit evidence that the Amendment (repealing Section 34) was passed to correct a parliamentary oversight. In his contribution to the debate over the Amendment, the AG made reference to the fact that while the Opposition was now criticising the enactment of the new Act which included Section 34, some of their members had voted for the new Act. They too were guilty of oversight since they were now commenting unfavourably on legislation which they had supported.”
“This vindicates the stance I have taken on this matter from day one- and that is that the Opposition and the Independents supported the original bill which contained Section 34 and any attempt to wash one’s hands and play Pontius Pilate in the matter with the benefit of hindsight was merely political hypocrisy and disingenuous to say the least,” he said. He said this was the second time that the court had found that this was a collective parliamentary oversight, in respect of a piece of legislation which the Government of the day moved ‘swiftly and decisively’ to correct in the shortest space of time.
“Sometime last week we had a press conference with the former minister of justice (Herbert Volney) absolving the Attorney General of blame. But this (time) it is not any politician speaking. This is the full Court of Appeal speaking. And they have said that Parliament in its collective wisdom absolved the Attorney General of fault in respect of the early proclamation of Section 34,” Ramlogan stated.
He cited paragraph 31 of the judgment, which stated that “Parliament in its collective wisdom absolved him (the Attorney General) of fault in respect of the early proclamation of Section 34 and impliedly rejected the contention that there was no oversight in the early proclamation of Section 34”.
The judgment had noted that “one of the major allegations was that the AG’s actions were intentional”. But it concluded, that the debate for and against a (no confidence) motion was defeated 25 against /11 for.
Ramlogan said what was also significant from a political standpoint was the Court’s observation that he was the only member of Parliament to sign an affidavit in which the claims of the appellants were refuted. He cited paragraph 35 of the judgment, which stated: “No other members of Government or even an Opposition Member of Parliament swore on affidavit to contradict or to throw light on any statement made by the Attorney General, nor was the Attorney General cross-examined on his affidavit evidence. The probative value of this evidence cannot be undermined by the attempted collateral attacks of the appellants.”
Said Ramlogan: “There has been a lot of hot air and steam-blowing on this matter by the Opposition. But talk is cheap and evidence is reality. In this matter not a single member of the Opposition, many of whom were very loquacious and voluminous in their commentary in newspaper articles, came on affidavit to subject themselves to the rigours of cross-examination so the truth could be unearthed. So it is easy to talk and preach from a political platform but when it comes to getting the truth in a court of law by reference to evidence, no one steps forward, although they are quick to malign, attack and vilify.”