Acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith plans to speak to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar about the petition presented to him yesterday by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.
Rowley had an audience with the acting President after yesterday's march which was called by the People's National Movement (PNM) from the Red House to the President's House to protest Government's handling of the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act.
The petition calls on the Prime Minister to explain what happened and for Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Justice Minister Herbert Volney to be fired.
Hamel-Smith confirmed to the Express yesterday that he gave Rowley the assurance he would raise the issues with the Prime Minister.
Hamel-Smith is acting in the absence of President George Maxwell Richards who left the country early yesterday morning on vacation.
Many think it was ironic that Hamel-Smith, who presided over the debate on the Administration of Justice Act and who would have been present when the undertakings with respect to the proclamation of the Act were given to the Parliament, should now be the acting President to receive the petition.
Asked whether having presided in the Senate when the bill was passed complicated matters for him, Hamel-Smith stated: "No".
He said, however, he had asked the Clerk of the Senate for the Hansard reports. He said he mentioned to Rowley that there was sometimes a benefit to having the experience of sitting in both places—in the Parliament and in the President's chair.
One such benefit, he said, was that one had a clear appreciation for the connection between the two institutions. He said perhaps one of the areas that needed to be looked at was the communication lines (between the both institutions) which may sometimes have gaps.
Coincidentally, the PNM-led march was staged on the same day that Congress of the People leader and Minister of Legal Affairs, Prakash Ramadhar, held a media conference distancing himself and the Legislative Review Committee —the Cabinet committee he chairs— from the drafting of Section 34.
Section 81 of the Constitution 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."
Ramadhar said that Section never came before the LRC, which never had an opportunity to deliberate or make any input on it. He apologised to the country for whatever part he played in the imbroglio but stressed that things were done in an environment of trust.
Asked whether this made things awkward for him, Hamel-Smith, a COP member, said no because he had removed himself from active involvement in the COP.
"As President of the Senate I don't participate in any political meetings of any sort, so for the last two and a half years I have been pretty much out of touch. I am an independent person, I have independent views. And I am not required to toe any party line or anything like that. That is how I have played my role as Senate President."
On the petition, Hamel-Smith, an attorney, said he would seek advice. "Lawyers have a saying, that a lawyer who acts for himself has a fool for a client. In this matters I think taking advice from persons who are not connected with the issue is always a wise method. And that is basically what I assured Dr Rowley today."