Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday accused Government of using the Cabinet and the Parliament "to facilitate the escape of alleged criminal wrongdoing on the part of favoured citizens".
He also called for the immediate resignation of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Justice Minister Herbert Volney.
He was commenting on Government's "secret" proclamation of the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, 2011, which would allow United National Congress financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson to walk free of all charges, upon application to a judge in the High Court.
Both men have already made an application to the court.
The proclamation of this clause (along with four other benign clauses), on August 30, was timely since the preliminary enquiry for the prosecution of both men was due to resume soon. Rowley's statements added to the growing outrage fuelled by the perception that the partial proclamation was done specifically to facilitate Galbaransingh and Ferguson.
Rowley called on Government to convene the Parliament within 48 hours to "rectify this outrage". During the news conference, the media was informed, via a news release, the Parliament would indeed meet today to deal with the issue.
But that was not enough for Rowley.
"The fact that we have to go back to Parliament to stop them in their tracks suggests that the people who facilitated this (development with Galbaransingh and Ferguson) should not be holding ministerial office," he said, persisting in his call for the heads of Ramlogan and Volney.
Speaking at a news conference at his Port of Spain office, Rowley said the People's National Movement was taking to the streets because Government had betrayed the Parliament and the country.
He said when the Administration of Justice Act was debated in the Parliament, the impact on the current Piarco-related cases was raised by the People's National Movement, specifically Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert.
"The Parliament received assurances from the minister who piloted the bill (Volney) that the Act would not be proclaimed until the necessary infrastructure to administer the legislation was put in place."
These measures include the appointment of Masters of the Court, the drafting, debating and approval of Criminal Procedure rules and the appointment of judicial support staff.
Noting that these changes, which would take time and money, are yet to be completed, Rowley said: "Despite the absence of the promised infrastructure, the Government has proceeded to make the Act law so that (certain) persons may now claim the benefit of the Act... The burning question to be answered is why the surreptitious undue haste to proclaim this part of the legislation?"
He said the proclamation of certain sections of the Act must be perceived in the context of the power and influence of alleged corrupt individuals over this Government.
Rowley said just as Volney broke his promise to the Parliament, Ramlogan also breached his undertaking to the United States.
"Government's undertaking was worth nothing—it's just spit," he declared.
"When the Attorney General responded to the concerns of the United States (which wants to extradite Galbaransingh and Ferguson) in this matter, he (Ramlogan) said: 'Of paramount importance is the question of where the defendants are likely to be brought to justice in the quickest possible time. Not appealing means that the way was for the courts in Trinidad and Tobago to commence the trial without further delay. It does not mean that the defendants will walk free without facing a trial.'"
Rowley said the Opposition is calling on the Government to convene Parliament in 48 hours and bring appropriate amendments to the Act to include serious fraud and money laundering among those criminal offences which do not qualify for discharge under the statutory ten-year limit.
This latter demand, he conceded, can only happen "with hindsight", since the Opposition did not make this recommendation at the time the bill was debated.
Rowley said if Government did not respond satisfactorily to the Opposition's demands, the party had already applied for permission from the Commissioner of Police to stage a demonstration outside the Office of the Prime Minister tomorrow morning, following which it would march to President's House "to present to him a signed petition of the traumatised citizens... who seek protection from the vulgar and corrupt actions of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago".
Rowley said the Opposition also planned to write to the governments of the US, UK, France, Canada and Holland, the United Nations, the Organisation of American States and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to tell them this Government was using its power in the Parliament "to facilitate criminal conduct".
Rowley said Government's action in this matter reminded him of the Anti-Gang Act when Government, seeking to have Opposition and Independent support for the legislation, gave an undertaking that the infrastructure would be in place before proclamation, then proceeded to proclaim the Act (without the infrastructure), declare a State of Emergency and lock up people under the Anti-Gang Act for alleged offences committed before the Act was proclaimed.