T&T: PM fires VolneyPrime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar advised Acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith to revoke Volney's appointment. (FP)
Fri, September 21, 2012 - 1:31 PM
The fiasco of Section 34 sparked widespread calls for two heads - the Attorney General's and the Justice Minister's. Last night Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar offered up one - that of Justice Minister Herbert Volney.
In an address immediately following an extended Cabinet regular meeting yesterday, the Prime Minister informed the nation that she had advised Acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith to revoke Volney's appointment.
The Prime Minister announced the appointment of Tobago-born attorney Christlyn Moore , a senator, as his replacement.
In her live address to the nation, the Prime Minister cleared the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan of any culpability or involvement in the scandal of the (Administration of Justice) Indictable Offences Act) and she placed the blame for the Section 34 debacle squarely at Volney's feet, stating that he misled the Cabinet with respect to the concurrence and support of the Chief Justice and DPP for early proclamation of Section 34.
It was Volney who piloted the final version of Section 34 in the Senate ("which, the Prime Minister noted, was not the version approved by the LRC and thereafter by the Cabinet"). She also pointed that it was his Cabinet note which called for early proclamation, citing consultations with Chief Justice and the Director of Prosecutions.
She recalled that when Volney brought the note on August 9 to the Cabinet to proclaim Section 34 she specifically asked him whether the Chief Justice and the DPP had been consulted. She said Volney drew her attention to paragraph five of the Note which started that the Chief Justice had been consulted on the proclamation. "He then confirmed to the Cabinet that he had the support and approval of both the Chief Justice and the DPP on this matter," the Prime Minister stated.
"Early proclamation should never have occurred," the Prime Minister concluded.
"The approval of the Cabinet for this piecemeal proclamation was therefore predicated and based on the assurance and understanding that the Judiciary and the DPP were adequately consulted and fully supported the early implementation of this measure (Section 34) as a precursor to the rest of the act that would come into force in January 2013," the Prime Minister said.
But the Prime Minister said during her investigations that she spoke with the Chief Justice and "humbly requested" a report. The Chief Justice who provided a written report as well as the notes taken at a July 24 meeting with a specially appointed inter-ministerial committee, she said. She added that she also met with the Chief Justice and the DPP on Wednesday on the issue.
"I am now satisfied that there was no prior adequate or proper consultation with either office-holder on the early proclamation of Section 34," she said. .
She added that she was also satisfied that there was a "legitimate expectation" on the part of both officeholders that there would be no partial proclamation of this Act as this assurance had been given by Volney at the July 24 meeting.
The Prime Minister said all ministers had a "sacred duty and responsibility to the Cabinet in seeking to persuade the Cabinet to approve his or her note, present his case objectively, accurately in the knowledge that the Cabinet would act on his or her assurances and representations," she said.
"The Minister of Justice had a duty to faithfully and accurately represent the position and views of the Honourale Chief Justice and the DPP. He failed so to do and the Cabinet relied and acted on his assurances in good faith," the Prime Minister said.
"His failure to do so is a serious misrepresentation and amounts to material non-disclosure of relevant facts to the Cabinet which effectively prevented the Cabinet from making an informed decision," the Prime Minister said.
Persad-Bissessar noted that even after the concerns were first raised by the DPP, Volney told the Cabinet that both the CJ and DPP had agreed to the early proclamation.
The Prime Minister apologised to the President, the Chief Justice, the Parliament, the DPP and the country.
This was the seventh minister which Persad-Bissessar has axed in her relatively two and a half year tenure as PM. She said "tough decisions on integrity and performance were being made all the time. The Prime Minister said he had spoken with Volney yesterday and he admitted he made an error.
The Prime Minister however stressed that it was Parliament in its collective wisdom which "gave birth to Section 34".
She emphasised too there was no "nefarious intent" and that the amendment "targeted no particular persons, nor was it designed to protect any sectoral interests". The outcry was created because the bill would provide have provided an avenue for UNC financiers Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson and others in the Piarco fraud cases to escape prosecution. Section 34 was repealed last week.
The Prime Minister noted that "it was on the floor of the Senate without oversight by the LRC or the Cabinet," that the final version of Section 34, which changed the statutory limitation from 10 years from the start of criminal proceedings to 10 years from the date of the offence, was created.
The Prime Minister appeared to praise the public protest over Section 34, saying that she "embraced the debate and demonstration and welcomed those who feel so passionately about the nation.
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