|Attorney General Faris Al Rawi|
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar told the media on Wednesday that Al Rawi’s statement in the Senate that “it was the work of the SSA which resulted in persons standing before the courts for Seetahal’s murder” may prejudice the case against the accused.
She added that if Al Rawi’s statements turn out to be true the bigger question would be whether the SSA reports to him or whether he has access to the information in the Agency’s possession.
She argued that the matter raises the question about whether Al Rawi is using the SSA to gather information from the offices of the Commissioner of Police (CoP) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). She said she considered his statements “reckless and irresponsible” and suggested that he may have undermined the SSA’s work in solving the crime.
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar noted the Interception of Communications Act (ICA) clearly states that any person who intentionally possesses communications intercepted under the Act and is unauthorised to do so, commits an offence.
She called on Acting CoP Stephen Williams and the DPP to investigate whether Al Rawi or anyone else has breached the ICA or the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) Act.
Al Rawi’s first response was to dismiss the Opposition Leader’s statements as a “distraction” but at the same time he chose to hide behind the privilege that legislators enjoy. “The Constitution of TT is pellucidly clear that Members of Parliament…(have) an absolute immunity to things said or done in Parliament,” the media quoted him as saying.
This suggests that his interpretation of privilege is that legislators can knowingly make reckless statements and seek the protection of privilege. It likely explains the so-called Emailgate scandal when Keith Rowley presented a string of bogus emails accusing then PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar and other senior government officials of serious criminal intent.
Parliamentary Privilege is not a cover for falsehood and recklessness. But in this particular case it cannot shield Al Rawi because he also made the statements in a public place in the presence of the media.
Speaking at a Panel discussion at the St. Augustine campus of the UWI earlier this week he stated: “…it is a matter of fact that right now there are 23 people as a result of the activities of the SSA last year alone facing trial for murder right now.”
Where did he get that information? Clearly he was using information he was not supposed to have - and he was speaking in public. So whatever privilege he enjoyed when he said the same thing in the Senate did not apply.
Al Rawi needs to explain, instead of using his normal style of trying to deflect important matters with irrelevant foolishness.
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar is right to challenge Al Rawi to “come clean with the country and tell us how he came into possession of information that was gathered by the SSA” in the Seetahal murder investigation.
If the Attorney General is doing everything above board all he has to do is tell the people so instead of rambling on about the Opposition Leader and avoiding the principal issue.
Jai Parasram | 20 May 2016