Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday declined comment on the ultimatum given by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to probe prison litigation, and to remove him as Attorney General while the probe is being conducted, or face a protest march through the streets.
However, he labelled as “wild, reckless and irresponsible” Rowley’s allegations that there was possible criminal behaviour in the settlement of prison litigation.
On Rowley’s statements that he (Ramlogan) was insisting external bodies conduct the investigation into organisations like the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), but he (Ramlogan) was conducting an investigation into allegations against his own ministry, Ramlogan said the Solicitor General’s Department and the Chief State Solicitor’s Department were independent departments and did not fall under this control, direction or supervision.
“I have no supervisory and managerial powers, no influence or control over those departments. The officers there are appointed by the Judiciary and Legal Service Commission and they fall under the jurisdiction of the Solicitor General and the Chief State Solicitor. If I want to say something to the lawyers in these departments, I have to go through the Solicitor General and Chief State Solicitor. So you (Rowley) are not comparing apples with apples at all. You can’t compare that with the PCA case where the head is the head (with the Ministry of the Attorney General),” he said.
Ramlogan said he was also the line minister for the Department of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Judiciary, the Tax Appeal Board as well as the Industrial Court, but had “no influence on day-to-day administration and supervision of those departments”.
The Attorney General said that is why, in conducting the investigation, he asked acting Solicitor General Carol Hernandez for a report about the specific cases raised about prison litigation.
Ramlogan said he was on very good terms with the former solicitor general, with whom he spoke up to Monday night. He said it was unfortunate the media was linking this issue of her concerns with prison litigation to her resignation.
He said Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell had wanted to resign one year ago and he persuaded her to stay on an extra year. He said he was aware there were personal reasons for her decision. He said there was no conflict between them, and pointed to the fact that there were front-page photos of them dancing at a ministry function last December. Those photos appeared yesterday on the front pages of the Guardian and Newsday but carried no photographer’s byline or other credit.
Ramlogan said he could not pressure Donaldson-Honeywell because he had no control over her. He said he believed that by the time the first letter was written (on August 28, 2013), Donaldson-Honeywell had already decided to leave the job.
Insisting they remained on good terms, Ramlogan said: “The last thing I did was to ask her if she would be prepared to continue representing the State even though she would no longer be solicitor general because I was prepared to have her continue in certain matters in which she was involved... And she wrote back stating that she would be quite happy to continue in those matters, one is the Section 34 case. I indicated that I would be prepared to pay to send you to the Privy Council but not necessarily to brief you in the matter formally”.
Ramlogan said the allegation of criminal behaviour or collusion being made by some people meant they were casting aspersions against the people working in the Solicitor General’s and the Chief State Solicitor’s Departments.
Told the allegations related to practising attorneys working on behalf of the State and not attorneys attached to the Solicitor General’s and the Chief State Solicitor’s Departments, Ramlogan asked how one would get a settlement that is “inflated and exaggerated” and is in one’s favour except with the “collusion and conspiracy with” somebody inside there (the Solicitor General’s and the Chief State Solicitor’s Departments).
“For the matter to be settled, it has to come from the lawyers who are assigned in the Solicitor General Department and the Chief State Solicitor Department. They tender advice, having looked at the evidence and the law. It goes to the team leader and then to the Solicitor General, who would have to make an independent review of the matter and recommend it for settlement to the Attorney General,” he stated.
Ramlogan said as Attorney General he had never settled any matter where there was no recommendation for settlement.
Alternatively, he said, a matter goes to court and the judge, having heard all the evidence, makes an award. “Those are the only two scenarios in which you can obtain a settlement,” he said. So, he insisted, any “wild and reckless and irresponsible allegation of criminal conduct” was inevitably besmirching the character of many others, including the judiciary, which hears and determines these cases.
Ramlogan said many times people come to him seeking assistance to have their matters settled, and he has to remind them he does not have the power to do this. “If an attorney general tries to do that, that is madness. And Eleanor (Donaldson-Honeywell) has not made any accusation of that kind,” he said.