Sunday, December 17, 2017

Volney' s confession sparks mass cynicism

Scepticism over about-turn on Section 34:


Herbert Volney

Mark Fraser

There is something fishy about former justice minister Herbert Volney’s sudden confession and acceptance of blame for the Section 34 fiasco and the question is whether he struck a deal to change his tune.

This was the feedback yesterday on Volney’s surprise move to publicly apologise to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who he said had nothing to do with the debacle. Volney and Ramlogan have also agreed to settle for an undisclosed sum a defamation lawsuit which the AG had brought against Volney for statements made about the AG and section 34 . 

This was disclosed at a news conference at the AG’s office on Tuesday.

Volney said, as former justice minister, he helped calibrate Section 34, had it amended it in the Senate and also proclaimed. 

He said it was an oversight on his part and did not know of its fallout whereby United National Congress (UNC) financiers such as Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson and others who have cases against them more than ten years old would have escaped liability. 

Government moved swiftly to repeal Section 34 following a public furore and Volney was fired.

Since then, Volney was highly critical of the Government and the AG, saying he was made the fall guy.

A year and a half later he is now saying he was the main culprit and the AG had no role in the controversy.

However, the view yesterday was that Volney’s story just does not add up and gives the perception that he sold out.

The following are some of the responses compiled by the Express:

Former national security minister Jack Warner: “I was surprised that Mr Volney fell in that trap, I was surprised that Mr Volney allowed the AG to manipulate him, I was surprised that Mr Volney believes he can hoodwink an entire nation.

“I am surprised that Mr Volney thinks the AG and the PP (People’s Partnership) are capable of keeping their word, because they are not.”

Warner said that no minister can send a bill to the President for proclamation and for Volney to now say he did it all was “utter rubbish”.

“Mr Volney has been consistently critical of the AG in the past and if he think this will  help to whitewash the AG, well the AG will need much more than that, he needs a whole new dispensation, a new janum (life) to help him,” said Warner.

Warner said Volney’s confession has done the AG more harm because this tactic has only angered the people further.

He said this move was an attempt to soften the “charade’’ — the People’s Partnership anniversary celebrations in Chaguanas on Saturday but ‘bussing’ CEPEP and URP employees to the venue will not help change the minds of the people.

Warner added that this was the first time he has seen one of the partners (UNC) in the Partnership being advertised for the anniversary event and questioned where were the others.

He said, come Friday, his party, the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), will be out in full force to march against the Government.

Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) head Ancel Roget said the feedback on the ground was that Volney was bought out.

“That is a clear set-up!” said Roget.

He said in mobilising people to attend  tomorrow’s march, the consensus was that something was amiss.

“They are desperate for their own political survival....this goes further to show that they are taking the people for fools and they are insulting with impunity the intelligence of the people, but the people are no fools,” said Roget.

He said no one was taking Volney’s acceptance of blame seriously and in fact this move has generated more questions than answers.

Roget said Volney’s actions were also an attempt to defuse the heat from the AG and to try and change the conversation and calls for him to be removed from office.

He questioned whether the police should investigate Volney on the heels of his statements.

“If the former justice minister now admitting to a crime and, if that is the case, the police should take action because that is certainly perverting the course of justice,” said Roget.

Former prime minister Basdeo Panday said people have been telling him that Volney sold out.

“The perception of a lot of people is that some deal has taken place, I don’t know whether this is so but it is very fishy and strange at this point in time that he could come and accept full blame,” said Panday.

“What bothers me very very much, and I echo the sentiments of Dr Rowley, is that this man was a judge and what this proves is that there must be something wrong with the system by which judges are selected because this person really should have never been a judge,” said Panday.

Panday said the timing of Volney’s admission of guilt was also convenient “having regard to the fact that some celebration is coming up, they are celebrating 24 years of my party”.

Congress of the People (COP) member Vernon De Lima said he was “stunned” by Volney’s about-turn and said it was frightening that he (Volney) served at the Supreme Court.

“That is a disgrace, I was so upset, as a senior member of the bar, that kind of behaviour was unbecoming of a judge. He was a judge of the Supreme Court, and when a judge says something his word is his bond,” said De Lima.

“This whole country is still stunned over the passing of Dana Seetahal who was just gunned down by cowards...and now this,” he added.

De Lima said right now senior people need to start acting responsibly as they are moulding the minds of young children.

He said the various controversies stemming from the AG’s office were also worrying and expressed disappointment that his party, the COP, remains silent.

“What does the COP stand for? They stand for nothing,” said De Lima.

Political analyst Winford James said Volney’s statements create suspicion and questioned why did he not accept blame up front, one and a half years ago.

“It creates a lot of suspicion because Mr Volney has been saying one thing after the other and there is very little credibility in his statement,” said James.

He noted that Volney was very critical of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for placing the blame on him and firing him and now his about-turn has vindicated her actions.

“We have to take what he says with a grain of salt because we never know what is going on behind the scenes. I think it is an opportunistic statement because he was the one who has been calling for the AG’s resignation and now he has turned around and vindicated the AG and the Prime Minister,” said James.