Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

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I took action on issue already

Kamla responds:

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has responded to President George Maxwell Richards' written request for answers on the Section 34 fiasco, informing him that answers were already provided and action taken on the issue.

Persad-Bissessar yesterday confirmed she had sent a letter to the President in response to his letter dated December 7.

The Prime Minister did not divulge the content of her reply to Richards, but the Express understands the letter pointed out that Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith had already conducted an investigation into the Section 34 debacle and had issued a full statement.

Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill 2011, which was prematurely proclaimed in August ahead of the majority of other sections, caused an uproar because it allowed businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh, Steve Ferguson and other persons accused in the Piarco bid-rigging and corruption scandal to apply to the court to discharge their cases. The matter is now before the courts.

The Parliament immediately met and repealed the section.

The Prime Minister held former minister Herbert Volney accountable for the early proclamation and fired him.

Hamel-Smith, in response to a petition from Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, had examined the matter and released a statement that Section 34 was "fundamentally flawed".

Hamel-Smith also noted that the section was repealed and Volney fired as he put forward a number of solutions aimed at improving the parliamentary system as parliamentarians had voted for the Act.

Sources told the Express that the Prime Minister's letter to the President noted Hamel-Smith's deliberations on the matter and stated the public's confidence in the Office of the President would be undermined to again raise questions on a matter that was already dealt with.

Sources also said the letter took issue with the President's interpretation of Section 81 of the Constitution, which states: "The Prime Minister shall keep the President fully informed concerning the general conduct of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and shall furnish the President with such information as he may request with respect to any particular matter relating to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago."

According to sources, the letter pointed out to the President that Section 81 was not intended to give the President power to scrutinise every action taken by the Cabinet.

Last month, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan himself issued a release stating the President would be stepping out of his constitutional boundary if he were to use this section to seek answers on the Section 34 issue.

"It would be a misuse and flagrant abuse of Section 81 of the Constitution for his Excellency to institute a political probe or enquiry into the actions of the Government.... This is not the purpose, remit or function of Section 81, which is designed to keep the President informed," Ramlogan had stated.

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