Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guest column - Implicating the Presidency - by Dr Hamid Ghany

In a press conference hosted by the round table led by David Abdulah at City Hall two Fridays ago, Dr Keith Rowley, Leader of the Opposition, said, “The new President is to ensure that the unfinished business of the Office of President must be taken to its logical conclusion. The Prime Minister must be made to subject herself to presidential scrutiny.”

This statement was made in relation to their ongoing pursuit of the controversy surrounding the early proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.

Additionally, they are calling upon the new President, Anthony Carmona, to demand of the Prime Minister answers to the reasons why the Government found it necessary to recommend to the former president that he should proclaim Section 34 and a few other sections of the said act in August 2012 with the rest of the act to be proclaimed in January 2013.

It is at this point that the round table is making a fundamental error because the final answer does not lie in the recommendations made by the Government, but rather in the approval that was given by the former president to those recommendations.

The round table is asking the President to use his powers under Section 81 of the Constitution to demand answers from the Prime Minister. However, they are not facing the reality that he will need to ask the former president as to the reason why he affixed his signature to bring the proclamation into law.

One would shudder to think that the former president would have gone ahead and signed the early proclamation without any answers and then seek to ask for those answers in December 2012 after he had already signed in August 2012.

Nevertheless, that is what it looks like based on the letter that was leaked two Sundays ago in the Sunday Express where it was obvious that the former president seemed to be playing “catch up” with the events. The reality is that he, too, was put under pressure by the round table and this was his response on December 7, after being on vacation between September 18 and October 23.

That leaked letter provided the public with their only glimpse of how the presidency handled this entire matter because without that presidential signature there could have been no early proclamation. All of a sudden the president got Section 81 powers to “rough up” the Prime Minister in December, but he never used those powers to provide the same treatment in August.

The efforts of the round table have now taken us to the door of President’s House to examine whether this was a flaw in the judgment of the former president, because they are already adamant that he could not be considered a co-conspirator in the “criminal conspiracy” that they are alleging against the Government.

Did the “error” that the Prime Minister has spoken about repeatedly include the president? Did he also make the same error and when the round table put the pressure on him he decided to transfer that pressure to the Prime Minister not realising that his own judgment would be called into question?

There were many controversies surrounding the tenure of the former president which included, inter alia, his personal responsibility for the collapse of the Integrity Commission in one week in May 2009, and the errors of his judgment that it exposed. 

There was also his decision to proceed on vacation at the height of the state of emergency in 2011, not to mention the challenges from the Opposition to his approval of a state of emergency.

There was also the ruling of the High Court that concluded that he had unfairly dismissed Nizam Mohammed as chairman of the Police Service Commission. His suspension of Gladys Gaffoor as deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission was highly controversial and the matter ended up in court where it is now on appeal before the Court of Appeal.

His decision to proclaim Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 four months ahead of the rest of the act is now under scrutiny with the key issue being whether he was fooled into early proclamation or whether he agreed with early proclamation. That has not been answered.
His December 7 letter to Rowley on this matter ended up in the media in December. His December 7 letter to the Prime Minister on this matter ended up in the media in April. 

Another leaked letter in March this year from the Prime Minister to the former president asking him not to make any appointments to the Integrity Commission before he left office confirmed that he still listened to the Prime Minister up to the end of his term.

He could have ignored her and gone ahead with the appointments to the Integrity Commission. He exercised his discretion not to do so and this has left the country without an Integrity Commission. Why did he not make those appointments? The silence of the round table on this matter is absolutely deafening.

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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