I write to correct several fundamental errors in your editorial yesterday entitled “Ignorance of law no excuse, Mr AG”. I was asked to explain why I (and the Cabinet) relied on the assurances and statements made by the former Minister of Justice that the Honourable Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions supported the piecemeal proclamation of Section 34 in the context of my responsibilities to the Cabinet. I highlighted the fact that this was a matter which fell squarely within the ministerial portfolio of the Ministry of Justice. The note in question was tabled by the Minister of Justice. Criminal legislation and reformation of the criminal justice system was removed from the Ministry of the Attorney General and placed under the newly-created Ministry of Justice. This assignment of responsibilities is governed by law and gazetted. We, therefore, relied on and trusted the statements made by our colleague because he bore individual responsibility to the Cabinet for his note.
The editorial poses the question, “Is this the same hotshot attorney, Anand Ramlogan, who for years had deep insight into the alleged criminal activities committed by the likes of Calder Hart and is now threatening to criminally prosecute those he identifies as being PNM financiers?” This statement underscores the writer’s “ignorance of the law” and supports my contention that one cannot be an expert in all things at all times. I have never threatened to “criminally prosecute” anyone since my appointment as Attorney General and challenge you to produce evidence of this. It is a blatant lie and a malicious falsehood. This is the function of the Director of Public Prosecutions who is independent of the government. It is the DPP who has sole and exclusive jurisdiction for criminal prosecutions under the constitution.
This is a well-known fact. It is defamatory and politically mischievous for your newspaper to suggest that I unlawfully usurped the role and power of the DPP by threatening to criminally prosecute persons based on their political persuasion. I have never done so and daresay the DPP would have himself protested publicly if any such attempt was made. It is a matter of grave concern that a reputable newspaper (to which I contributed as a columnist for many years) would make such an irresponsible and reckless statement which implies that I have breached the separation of powers and transgressed on the constitutional turf of the DPP.
For the record, the cases that I have mentioned against top PNM officials who served on several boards including UTT, Petrotrin, Udecott, Etek and T&TEC for breach of fiduciary duty are all civil in nature. I have repeatedly said this on a number of occasions in light of people’s criticism of the government for “not locking up and charging anybody for PNM corruption”. The short answer is no government can—this is the function of the independent police service and the DPP. The editorial completely missed the point about the practical significance and effect of the creation of the Ministry of Justice. This is illustrated by the following: “Mr Ramlogan may also consider it a clever attempt to sidle out of his predicament by noting that none of his immediate predecessors were experienced practitioners at the criminal bar.
However, unlike Ramlogan, the country has never heard complaints from any one of them about their incapacity to carry out aspects of their portfolio because of lack of experience in criminal proceedings. Maybe this is really an indication that Ramlogan is unsuited to the job.” Previously, the Ministry of the Attorney General was responsible for both criminal and civil cases. However, even then the sitting Attorney General would rely on the expertise of his technocrats as no one is an expert in every aspect of law. This means that there was no other minister in the Cabinet to whom the responsibility for criminal legislation and reformation of the criminal justice system was assigned. This changed under the People’s Partnership administration when a separate Ministry of Justice was created for the very first time. This simple and basic point appears to have eluded the writer.