Former head of the Public Service and former diplomat Reginald Dumas announced his intention yesterday to appeal the ruling of Justice Robin Mohammed in the matter of Dumas versus the Attorney General.
Dumas had approached the High Court seeking an interpretation of Section 122 of the Constitution, under which President Anthony Carmona had nominated Dr James Armstrong and Roamar Achat-Saney to the Police Service Commission (PSC).
Dumas had raised concerns about the constitutionality of the appointment, contending the two individuals were not qualified, according to the stipulations outlined in Section 122 of the Constitution.
Nevertheless, the nominations were approved by Parliament, with the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) registering a dissenting vote. Dumas took the issue to court, seeking an interpretation of Section 122.
Last Tuesday, Justice Mohammed dismissed Dumas’ application, saying under the Civil Proceedings Rules, any interpretation of the Constitution can only be carried out by the court where the claimant alleges a breach of his or her fundamental rights and freedoms, which he said Dumas had not alleged.
In a statement issued yesterday, Dumas stated:
“On July 22, 2014, the Hon Mr Justice Robin Mohammed in the High Court dismissed my claim and made an order for costs against me. His Lordship ruled that under the Civil Proceedings Rules, I could only apply to the High Court in relation to the Constitution if I were alleging a breach of my fundamental rights and freedoms as an individual.
“This ruling, made on procedural grounds, would appear to mean that unless he or she is personally affected, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago has no right to approach the High Court (and thus no access to justice) for an interpretation of the Constitution, even in circumstances where, as here, it is feared the President has taken an action which is unlawful and which could have negative national implications. I find that to be a most dangerous pro-position in a society which claims to be democratic and to be foun-ded on the rule of law.
“Sections 108 and 109 of the Constitution grant every citizen an appeal as of right to the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council in civil proceedings which involve the interpretation of the Constitution. Accordingly, as advised by counsel, I shall avail myself of that right and approach the Court of Appeal, with a view to upholding the right of citizens to ensure the lawful exercise of powers conferred by the Constitution, the supreme law of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Dumas said all citizens have a vested interest in upholding the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago. “All citizens are consequently entitled to demand that the powers conferred on our leaders by the Constitution for the country’s benefit are exercised conscientiously and lawfully.”
He noted on September 4, 2013, His Excellency Anthony Carmona, ORTT, SC, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, nominated Dr James Armstrong and Mrs Roamar Achat-Saney for appointment to the Police Service Commission.
“As a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, I was concerned that His Excellency might have acted outside the powers vested in him by Section 122 of the Constitution, which limits appointments to the Police Service Commission to persons who are “qualified and experienced” in certain discrete disciplines,” he said.
“On my behalf, the late Mr Karl T Hudson-Phillips, QC, therefore wrote the Honourable Attorney General, Mr Anand Ramlogan, SC, on September 26, 2013, inviting him to consider the lawfulness of the two nominations in light of Section 122(3) of the Constitution. No response to that letter has yet been received,” Dumas noted.
“Notwithstanding the subsequent appointment of Dr Armstrong and Mrs Achat-Saney to the commission, I remained concerned as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago that the President appeared to have exceeded his powers under Section 122 of the Constitution. I considered it to be in the public interest that the High Court provide guidance in the matter.
“On April 10, 2014, I therefore exercised what I thought was my right as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago to approach the High Court for an interpretation of Section 122 of the Constitution as it related to the appointment of the two persons.
“Within those parameters, it was suggested—rather surprisingly, I thought—that the issues which I sought to have the High Court consider were academic or hypothetical because they did not relate to any such alleged breach where I personally was concerned. It was as if my disquiet as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago at an issue of public, national interest—a disquiet which no reasonable person could describe as frivolous or vexatious—was a matter of no importance,” Dumas stated.