PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar must tell the population why Cabinet chose to proclaim the contentious Section 34 provision of the the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday.
"I want to ask the Prime Minister what was expedient, what is the expediency about sections one, two, three, 32 and 34 being proclaimed in the context of August 31 when the rest of the Bill will be proclaimed next year. And I am demanding an answer from the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago," he said.
He was contributing to the debate yesterday on the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) (Amendment) Bill, 2012 during a special session of Parliament at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
He said the proclamation was made "secretly and surreptitiously" on August 31 and that it was Government's "gift to that nation".
Rowley commented that it had not been a "healthy and lively debate" by the public on the issue, as Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had previously stated, but "anger, outrage, disgust and revulsion".
"So to come here and try to take credit for responding to the people because it is a 'Government that listens' is to insult the intelligence of the population," he said.
He said when the bill was passed the Opposition did not give "unqualified support", as Ramlogan had stated in his contribution, but it was with the caveat that necessary requirements would be implemented. He noted that this promise was broken and this was "true to form" of the "untrustworthy" Government.
He said the Opposition pleaded "guilty" to trusting the Government to keep its word that it gave to the Parliament regarding the bill but "not guilty" to the proclamation.
He also referred to the utilisation of the provisions that were proclaimed by businessmen and party financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson to apply to have their Piarco International Airport fraud case dismissed. Rowley said the world would believe that the effect of the proclamation would allow alleged money launderers and alleged fraudsters to have influence over Government.
He commented: "It may very well be persons who should have a day in Court, guilty or innocent, may never have that day in Court. If that develops in Trinidad and Tobago as an accepted practice especially a practice which can be perceived to have been facilitated by the Government, by the Cabinet, then the State will begin to disintegrate."
He added: "So far of all the things the Government has done this is the worst."
Rowley also predicted that repealing the provision alone will not insulate the State from the effects of the law and predicted that millions of taxpayers dollars will be spent in the Courts.
He also referenced a media release by coalition member the Congress of the People on the issue where the party questioned if the proclamation went through all the proper requirements and advised that if any person was found to have acted wrongly they should no longer be allowed in Government.
"What that means is whoever is responsible for this must be fired. Somebody has to be held accountable," he said.
He added: "The COP knows something but the COP...not saying it openly. They talking in parables."
He called on COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar, who was in Parliament at the time, to disown the release if it was not the COP position but Ramadhar remained seated.
Rowley, speaking earlier with the media, also said the announcement of the national budget date by the Prime Minister was a public relations ploy to distract from the issue.