Over a year and a half since Section 34 was repealed, former minister of justice Herbert Volney has changed his tune and taken “full and complete” responsibility for the fiasco.
At a press briefing held at the Cabildo Chambers office of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday, Volney stated:
“ I was the line minister in the Ministry of Justice and, having come from a background in the criminal justice system as a judge and a former prosecutor, I was the one who not only helped to calibrate Section 34 and bring it about, but also to have it amended in the Senate during the course of the debates and also to have it proclaimed.
“The Attorney General had nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with Section 34 other than as a parliamentary colleague to assist me on the floor during the committee stage, in the Senate in particular, to bring about the necessary changes to Section 34. It was obviously an oversight on my part and without the necessary information from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, I was unaware of the (potential) fallout. I should have undertaken a more careful consideration of the proclamation, which I did not, and I failed the Cabinet in that regard. And I can well understand why the Prime Minister (Kamla Persad-Bissessar) acted as she did,” Volney said.
Volney who had stated in the May 2013 during a debate in the Parliament that he “had seen the face of God, the honest truth, the gospel truth” in the alleged emails purporting to come for public officials on Section 34 issue (which was read by Opposition Leader Keith Rowley in May 2013), said yesterday that with his public admission of blame in the Section 34 fiasco, he hoped that the entire “Section 34 bogey” could be put to rest so the Government and the country itself could move forward.
Volney’s admission of his role in the Section 34 debacle came during his apology to Ramlogan yesterday for making certain defamatory remarks following his dismissal as Minister of Justice, in which he brought into question the Attorney General’s role in the legislation.
The apology was part of a settlement made between Ramlogan and Volney on civil lawsuits regarding the defamatory comments.
According to the Attorney General, the former justice minister had contacted the lawyers representing Ramlogan and they were able to arrive at a consensual position where Volney would apologise and retract the defamatory remarks and pay an undisclosed sum to a charity of Ramlogan’s choosing.
Part of the settlement was also that Volney agreed to give an undertaking that no further defamatory remarks will be made against the Attorney General or his office in the future.
Volney explained that the defamatory comments he made were as a result of the pain he was feeling due to the manner of his dismissal from his position as Minister of Justice.
“The manner of my dismissal caused me much hurt and I was reckless in much of what I said in relation to how it (Section 34) came about. During the course of my wanting to explain my position, I said certain things in relation to the supposed role of the Attorney General in my demise as Minister of Justice. On more mature reflection with the passage of time, I realised that I was wrong in relation to the Honourable Attorney General and I can (now) say without fear of contradiction in my heart, that I was wrong and I apologise. I know I would have caused you (Ramlogan), your family, your Cabinet colleagues and the Government some disquiet by some of the things I had stated. But one must never be too big to admit when one has faulted in life and I accept the responsibility for what I said. It was unfortunate and incorrect. Not malicious, but could have affected persons in a way that was not intended,” Volney said.
Ramlogan and Volney shook hands during the briefing to publicly show that there was ‘no bad blood’ between them.
Ramlogan said he would consider a suggestion by Volney that he could contribute to the Government’s fight against crime in a judicial or juridical role, so long as there was no political affiliation. Ramlogan, however, refused to reveal the amount the two parties had settled on, nor did he indicate which charity will be benefiting from the agreed sum.
He said he had always maintained that he had no role or involvement with the Section 34 fiasco.
- Section 34 officially proclaimed under the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act on August 31, 2012
- Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, along with others accused in the Piarco Enquiries, petitioned the courts to have their matters dismissed under Section 34, which brought about a public uproar
- Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar called special Cabinet meeting and a decision was taken to bring to Parliament an Act to repeal Section 34
- September 14, the President signed the Proclamation Order repealing Section 34.
- On September 20, Volney was fired by the Prime Minister