Friday, September 21, 2012

Kamla fires Volney, offers apology to nation

Herbert Volney ... fired for misleading cabinet
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Thursday fired Justice Minister Herbert Volney for misleading cabinet on the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.
Christlyn Moore

She also announced that Attorney Christlyn Moore would be the new Justice Minister. Moore is a lawyer working in the office of the Attorney General. Volney, who is the MP for St. Joseph, moves to the backbench.

Persad-Bissessar made the announcement in an address to the nation that was broadcast on radio and television from the Diplomatic Centre. Her announcement came following the regular weekly cabinet meeting and a meeting of the National Security Council, which the PM chairs. (Read the full statement)

The Prime Minister said Volney admitted that he made a mistake in misleading the cabinet into believing that he had the support of both Chief Justice Ivor Archie and the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard for the proclamation of Section 34.

She gave a clinical explanation of what transpired, outlining the background to the legislation and how the process moved to the natural conclusion of a proclamation by the president on August 30.

Persad-Bissessar said there was nothing sinister about the proclamation of section 34 as alleged by the opposition. She said all members of Parliament in both houses of the legislature voted for it so if there was a conspiracy everyone would have to be involved.

She also made it clear that there is a separation of power between the legislature and the executive so when the bill was passed it was the legislature, not the cabinet that passed it. She also explained that the timing of the proclamation was irrelevant since the bill would have the same effect regardless of when it was proclaimed. 

In detailing the events leading to the proclamation, Persad-Bissessar said Volney gave the cabinet the clear impression that the chief justice and DPP were supportive of the legislation. It turns out, she said, that the minister misled his cabinet colleagues.

She said there are two issues that govern the way the cabinet works - the individual responsibility of the minister and the collective responsibility of the cabinet. What happened in the case of Section 34 is that the minister failed in his individual responsibility by what she called "serious misrepresentations".

Persad-Bissessar apologised to the nation. "To the people of Trinidad and Tobago, to His Excellency the President of Trinidad and Tobago, to the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, to the Chief Justice and the DPP, on behalf of my government I express my sincerest apology," she said.

The Prime Minister also commented on the Opposition protest on Tuesday, saying that people are entitled to protest. She added that what happened on Tuesday showed that there is a strong sense of patriotism in the country and that democracy remains strong.

Persad-Bissessar said the country’s reaction to the Section 34 issue proved that citizens no longer want the old style of tolerance for wrongdoing. Citizens are demanding accountability, she said.

Volney is the second minister to be fired this year and the ninth since the new government took office in 2010.

The ministers who have been fired are:
  1. Herbert Volney
  2. Collin Partap
  3. Mary King
  4. Therese Baptiste-Cornelis
  5. Rudrawatee Nan Gosine-Ramgoolam
  6. Subhas Panday
  7. John Sandy
  8. Verna St Rose-Greaves
  9. Vernella Alleyne Toppin
The Express newspaper said the Public Relations Officer of the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM), Faris Al Rawi, said Persad-Bissessar had failed to address the Attorney General’s responsibility in the matter. The paper said Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley will respond on Friday.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai