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Roundtable wants Max to quiz PM

Section 34 issue: Opposition, unions, activists meet with President...

By Renuka Singh

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who has avoided commenting on the now contentious early proclamation of Section 34, may face another round of questioning from President George Maxwell Richards.

Members of the Roundtable—comprising the Opposition People's National Movement, various trade unions and social activists—yesterday met with Richards and delivered a letter asking him to invoke Section 81 of the Constitution and impel the Prime Minister to account for the early proclamation of Section 34.

The group, including PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley, Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget and Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdulah, met with the President and spoke with the media at Hotel Normandie in St Ann's.

"The President of the Republic has been officially informed by the Opposition, supported by the members of the Roundtable, that the Cabinet now faces an allegation of criminal conduct," Rowley said.

"We have put to the President of the Republic that the summary of this situation is that the group of office holders, mainly the members of the Cabinet, conducted public business in a way that opens the Cabinet to allegations that we are making, that the Cabinet has been involved in conduct inimical to the public interest."

Rowley said Persad-Bissessar has refused to comment on the parliamentary record three times, which has triggered this appeal to the President. "The head of the Government passed up three opportunities to speak on the parliamentary record," he said.

Rowley said Persad-Bissessar also refused to speak at the parliamentary session for the repeal of the Amendment to the Indictable Proceedings Act, which includes Section 34.

"The head of the Government did not speak, so there is no record in Parliament."

He said while the person who was deemed culpable (former justice minister Herbert Volney) was removed from Government, there is evidence in the public domain that others were also responsible for the early proclamation of Section 34.

"In fact, the responsibility is that of the entire Cabinet, and the office-holder who is responsible for the Cabinet is the Prime Minister."

Rowley said the issue is not about who voted or how the vote went, but about why it was proclaimed early.

"The one question that the Government has studiously evaded remains this: why did the Cabinet extract Section 34 and proclaim it into law prematurely?

"An answer is required from the Cabinet and from the Prime Minister."

Rowley said the early proclamation did nothing but benefit persons "known and favoured" by the Government "to escape the rule of the law".

In the letter to the President, the group requested "that the Prime Minister be requested to provide your good self with the relevant information pursuant to Section 81 of the Constitution in an investigative report on this matter compiled by an independent person/ commission of enquiry, into whether the Government, in its decision to have the early proclamation of Section 34, acted against the public interest and contrary to the principles of good governance, namely integrity in public office, morality in public affairs and honest good and accountable governance".

The letter also asked the President to "bear in mind that the public accusations of dereliction of duty and immorality in office are being made against the Cabinet".

"The Prime Minister is head of the Cabinet and she therefore and/or the Cabinet cannot properly give to Your Excellency an appropriate report on the conduct of the Government on the early proclamation of Section 34 because the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are implicated in a diabolical conspiracy and would be biased in compiling any such information to present to Your Excellency," the letter said.

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