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Minister told: Apologise to CJ

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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PORT-OF-SPAIN – The main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) today called on Justice Minister Herbert Volney to publicly apologise to Chief Justice Ivor Archie after the judiciary said he had made statements that were “scurrilous and a defamatory attack on the Office of the Chief Justice and the judiciary on a whole”.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has already described the statements made by Volney during the budget debate last week as “unfortunate” and not reflecting the position of her administration.
In a statement, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago expressly recognises the separation of powers and the Standing Orders of Parliament “specifically forbid any Member of Parliament from calling into question the conduct of any member of the judiciary, without placing a motion specific to that purpose”.
“Such a motion will then allow all MPs, the people’s  representatives, to contribute and examine any conduct which may warrant such treatment.”
Rowley said that it was “wholly unacceptable” for Volney, who resigned as a High Court judge to contest the May 24 general election, “to use the parliamentary floor and the cover of parliamentary privilege to slander the Honourable Chief Justice under thinly veiled allegations which are completely without foundation and substance”.
Written response
“It is now a requirement that the judiciary presents to the Speaker written response of the facts surrounding the allegations made against the Honourable Chief Justice by Mr Volney, a member of the House.
“Having permitted Mr Volney the opportunity to attempt to cast aspersions on the conduct of the Honourable Chief Justice, the Speaker is duty bound to read into the record of Hansard the truth surrounding the issue or issues raised by Mr Volney.”
Rowley said that if the decency of the House was to be preserved “the Speaker must call on Volney to stand in his place and offer an apology from the Parliament floor,” adding “nothing else will suffice at this stage”.
“Failure to act along the lines of these recommendations will result in the Opposition filing a motion to have Mr Volney dragged before the Privileges Committee of the House of Representatives,” Rowley added.
But while Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has said that the statements by Volney “reflect his personal opinion and in no way is the official position of the Prime Minister or the People’s Partnership Government” the embattled minister said he had nothing to apologise for.
“I have absolutely no grouse with the Chief Justice, but if something does not look good and does not smell good for my constituents, I have a duty to bring it to their attention,” Volney told the Express newspaper. (CMC)