Thursday, December 20, 2012

Legal experts say Max went too far in writing the PM

Legal experts believe President Max Richards went too far in asking for answers from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar with respect to Section 34 and have said the president could have raised these issues with the PM during his weekly meetings with her.

Senior counsel Seenath Jairam told the Express newspaper it seems that the questions are "tantamount to cross examination of the Prime Minister." 

Jairam believes Richards could have raised his concerns in person instead of writing to Persad-Bissessar.

"I would have expected that during their usual meetings His Excellency is entitled to ask the Prime Minister about that matter but to write a letter and ask these questions is taking it a step perhaps beyond what the framers of the constitution contemplated," Jairam said.

Another senior counsel, Martin Daly, told national TV Richards was well within his right to ask questions. However he said the PM is only obligated to provide the strict facts. Persad-Bissessar has already provided the facts to Timothy Hamel-Smith while he was acting president.

Daly said Richards now appears to be stretching Section 81 by seeking certain specific information.

"That is clearly a request designed to prompt an answer that will be mixed fact and opinion and I think one must be careful in stretching (section) 81 as far as that. As far as I am concerned, it is difficult to say to the President to give opinion on the conduct of the country as opposed to facts, relating to the conduct of the country," he said.

"Dr Rowley and the amalgamation of trade unions and civil society are playing good politics, but the legal basis is a bit questionable," Daly said.

Daly added that the PM has clearly answered questions on the proclamation itself through the examination of all related Cabinet notes and minutes. He said it's not clear what other facts people want Richards to ask her to give.

Daly further suggested that if the president's request is outside the boundaries of Section 81 "as I suggest this second request is then I think she can take the position (of saying no)."

A third senior counsel, Israel Khan suggested that the President was "duped to step out of his crease" and that the PM immediately stumped him.

"And I say it with the greatest respect to His Excellency President George Maxwell Richards, it is no business of the President to make any written requests of the prime minister of any particular matter of the governance of Trinidad and Tobago. Not write her a letter and then leak it to the media," Khan told the Express.

Former president of the law Association, Dana Seetahal, SC, has also taken issue with the move by the president. She has said he must be guided by the cabinet.

Read the story: President has no power to act against government: Seetahal

However former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, said Richards was "right" to act under Section 81 and that if the PM fails to respond she would give the impression that the government has something to hide in its decision to select Section 34 for early proclamation.

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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