PM calls special meeting to discuss controversial section
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar chaired a special Cabinet meeting yesterday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's. to discuss the repealing of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings Act 2011).
The Cabinet meeting started at 4 p.m following which Attorney General Anand Ramlogan delivered a four-minute statement at 7 p.m and took no questions on the matter from the media.
Following is the statement delivered by Ramlogan:
The Cabinet has met today and we have ratified a decision taken by the honourable Prime Minister earlier this morning at around 7 a.m. That decision was to convene Parliament tomorrow (today) and to repeal Section 34 which has been the subject of so much healthy and lively debate and discussion in the past couple of days.
This decision of course was communicated early this morning at around 8.30 a.m to the Opposition by the Leader of Government business through a conversation he had with the Opposition chief whip Ms Marlene McDonald.
So this morning the fact that we were going to convene the Parliament to repeal this section would have attracted so much debate and discussion was made known to the Opposition.
As you are aware the Government has introduced several measures to expedite and quicken the pace of justice in our country and one of the major interventions that was meant to clear the backlog that has been stifling and suffocating the administration of criminal justice in this country was the long overdo and much anticipated abolition of preliminary enquiries.
The report put out by the Judiciary reveals that there are thousands of matters that are clogging the system in the Magistrates' Courts and this bottleneck will stultify the criminal justice system if bold measures were not taken to deal with this.
The Administration of Justice Indictable proceedings Act 2011 which sought to abolish preliminary enquiries to ensure that accused persons can stand trial before a judge and jury in more expeditious timeframe is one of the hallmark pieces of legislations that has been passed by this administration.
A modern and efficient system of criminal justice is a most effective weapon in the fight against crime and that is why this act which was designed specifically to dynamite the lockjam that exist in the magistracy that is crippling the criminal justice system was given high priority by this administration.
We have taken note of the concerns and the divergent views expressed in relation to one section of this act. As with all laws it is bound to be a variety of legal opinion and interpretation, in light of the different views we have decided as a Government who listens to the people to err on the side of caution and to repeal this section in its entirety.
We do so to avoid any doubt whatsoever as to the true intention and purpose of the legislation which was always intended at fixing the lock jam that exists in the magistracy.
Let me make it abundantly clear that the policy of the People's Partnership administration led by the Prime Minister whose bold and decisive manner of leadership has demonstrated that the decision she took at 7 a.m this morning underscores the policy of this administration which is to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of all crimes in a society where the respect for the rule of law is paramount. No one is above the law, we are all subject to the law and we are all equal before the law.