Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guest Commentary: Is the president making mischief?

by Robin Montano writing in THE RAG
Robin Montano

It had been my sincere hope and desire that the last post that I would make on this blog for this year would be to wish everybody a merry christmas and to close down for the rest of the year. 

However, President Max Richards has decided to raise this issue of section 34 yet again and I just can't, in the interests of fairness, let this go without saying something.

I have said it many times before: if ever you want to understand a problem go back to the beginning. 

So, we must begin with the question: was section 34 a good idea and good law? The answer to both questions is an unequivocal 'yes'. So? Next question: why? 

And the answer is: because there is a huge back log of cases in the criminal courts and it IS (and I use the present tense deliberately) felt by all stakeholders that it is more than unfair to have persons with a criminal charge hanging over their heads for ten years ... an unconscionable period of time. 

Further, it was felt, that in the event that the delays in proceeding with a trial were not unconsciable in all of the circumstances of a particular case, that in the interests of justice, a case would not be automatically dismissed but that in order for it to be dismissed the accused would have to apply to a High Court Judge who would have a discretion as to whether or not the charge should be struck out.

Got that? Good! 

Because now we move on to the next part of the story: According to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice came to the Cabinet of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago and said that he wanted to have section 34 proclaimed immediately. 

He is reported to have said that he had consulted with the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the Chief Justice who had both agreed and 'signed off' on the early proclamation. 

The rest of the Act (the Administration of Justice Act) could not yet be proclaimed as certain things that needed to be put in place had not yet been organised. The explanation made sense as it was recognised from the beginning that the particular section was good law. So the Cabinet went along with the request. 

Incidentally, there is NOTHING to suggest that the Prime Minister's account of what happened is not correct or true.

It turned out that the Justice Minister had NOT consulted with either the Chief Justice or the Director of Public Prosecutions who were as surprised as everyone else as to the early proclamation. Further, the already dark and (what ought to be) unnecessary suspicions were exacerabated when reports surfaced of the Justice Minister drinking with one of the Piarco accused, Mr. Galbaransingh, in Mr. Galbaransingh's hotel in Tobago. (Whether it was champagne as was reported, or Perrier water as claimed by Mr. Volney, is irrelevant).

Mr. Volney was fired and the Prime Minister made a report in writing to the Office of the President occupied at that time by Mr. Timothy Hamel-Smith, the then Acting President, on the matter. And that ought to be the end of the story.

So? What the devil is President Max Richards up to? 

He meets with the Prime Minister EVERY Wednesday for crying out loud! You mean to say that in all of these meetings since he came back from his vacation that he did not ask the Prime Minister what the story was about section 34? Really? And now he puts pen to paper? Really? He does not know what happened? He didn't read what the Prime Minister told HIS office while he was away? Really?

The President has to be very careful here. 

An impartial observer might well be forgiven if he came to the conclusion that the President was trying to cause a little mischief and trouble for the present Administration in these waning days of his Presidency. If that was true, he would be doing a great disservice both to his office as well as the nation.

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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