United National Congress financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson will walk free from any legal challenges should Attorney General Anand Ramlogan remain in office, says Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.
Rowley stated this in his motion of censure in Ramlogan yesterday at the Parliament sitting where he called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to immediately remove him (Ramlogan) from office as he held responsibility for the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill 2011 which contained the controversial Section 34 clause that created an amnesty for the businessmen and others to get away.
Ramlogan, said Rowley, has a conflict of interest in the matter and therefore cannot protect the public's interest as this would require "the truth" to be told to any court of law—that Ramlogan did not properly discharge his duties.
"If the public interest is to be protected...the Prime Minister has a duty to relieve this Attorney General of his position and replace him with somebody else. To hold on to him in that office so as to allow him to be the maker of our case as the people of Trinidad and Tobago where his personal involvement and shortcomings in this matter cannot be reasonably be expected to be part of the submissions in any court is to say that from today or long before today it is the expectation of this Government that the State's case whatever it is will fall," said Rowley.
Rowley claimed that the early proclamation of Section 34 was a conspiracy—which the AG knew of from since last year when he changed the lawyers in the extradition case of Galbaransingh and Ferguson.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson are accused of bid-rigging and conspiracy to defraud the Government of Trinidad and Tobago during the period March 1, 1997 to December 21, 2000, under charges which arose out of the Piarco Airport Terminal construction.
Rowley drew the Parliament's attention to a sequence of events which began last year with Ramlogan changing the lawyers in the extradition matter which resulted in Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh ruling that the businessmen not be extradited but tried in a local court as the State lawyer's had failed to argue key points.
Rowley noted that the State did not appeal Boodoosingh's decision and gave the impression that the men would face trial in the local courts.
However, the early proclamation of Section 34 instead allowed them to have their matters thrown out.
Section 34 was repealed by the Parliament and Justice Minister Herbert Volney was fired.
Rowley argued yesterday that the businessmen now have the opportunity to take this matter all the way to the Privy Council.
"I don't want to wait until that repeat itself Mr Speaker, I am saying move him (Ramlogan) now," he said, as he questioned what was there to prevent Ramlogan from doing the same thing twice.
"If he stays in office, I have no confidence and the country by and large has no confidence that he can do differently and on that basis alone, he might be a very good man, he might be somebody's friend, somebody's father ...the way this thing has played out....it would be a travesty indeed if this Attorney General is left in charge of this process to continue to try to fool us that it was some oversight," said Rowley.
"The Attorney General cannot in any good conscience be allowed to remain in office to be in charge of this process to the end when he is so implicated in failing in his duty," he added.
Rowley also sought to prove that Ramlogan, although spared by the Prime Minister, held responsibility for the scandal as he is the legal adviser to the Cabinet and was very much present when the note to proclaim Section 34 came before the Cabinet yet remained silent.
Rowley added that Ramlogan was present in the Senate when Section 34 was amended—and the amnesty was changed from 10 years from the date of charge to the date when the offence occurred.
This change was done in the presence of the AG who gave assurances to the Parliament when concerns were raised about the section that the Act would not be proclaimed until legal infrastructure was put in place, he said.
Rowley argued that section 34 was not an oversight of the Parliament but a "brilliant manoeuvre" by the AG.
Rowley put forward several questions alluding that Ramlogan failed in his duties:
1. Why did he not appeal Justice Boodoosingh's decision and apply to put fresh evidence before the Court of Appeal that Section 34 now renders the local trial impossible?
2. Why did he tell the public that he decided not to appeal because there was to be a local trial when he knew that once Section 34 was proclaimed these certain persons would be discharged?
3. Why did he not take steps to amend the sixth schedule of Section 34 so that these persons could not rely on it to escape the court?
4. Why did he not advise Cabinet on August 6 that the proclamation of Section 34 would mean that these certain persons would be entitled to be discharged?
5. Did he fail to do all these obvious things because it was his Government's intentions that those favourite persons should go free or was it his own private intentions?