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Dumas questions legality of Govt’s CCJ decision
Former head of the public service Reginald Dumas is questioning why the People’s Partnership would seek to abolish the Privy Council as the country’s highest court of appeal for criminal matters, but retain it for civil cases. Dumas spoke in an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday. Persad-Bissessar announced the move in Parliament on Wednesday.
But several people, including Dumas, have raised concerns about the legality of the move. Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, former foreign affairs minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and others have said the period for any reservations has elapsed. The court was established some ten years ago. They have said any reservations should have been made at the time of signing or ratifying the court agreement.
Dumas said the decision to retain the Privy Council for civil matters was effectively the retention of a colonial mentality even as the nation celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence. Dumas said the move “appears to be illegal as well.” Dumas also raised concerns about Persad-Bissessar’s claim that the Government would be cautiously looking at the CCJ. He wanted to know who will do that.
“Will it be Justice Minister Herbert Volney? Volney or not, is it right for a Government to be supervising the judgements of an independent Judiciary?” “Does the Government intend to go back to the Privy Council in the future?” Dumas asked. Dumas expressed concern about the decision. “Why was it done in the way it was and why now?”
Asked to comment on Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh’s criticism of the Teaching Service Commission allowing some 1,700 vacancies in the education system, Dumas said the Teaching Service may not be at fault. Dumas said only one Director of Public Administration is employed to service the teaching, police, public and other service commissions.
“One person can’t do that. We can’t operate in 2012 with the same tools we used in 2000,” he said. On Gopeesingh’s announced intention to take the Teaching Service Commission to court, Dumas said he wanted to know what was the charge.
“The slow pace of filling vacancies? That is not a charge under the laws of T&T,” he said. He said the system of government and governance must be overhauled because it was “top-heavy and grievously flawed.” He said he understood Gopeesingh’s frustration over the matter but added that he was not sure the course of action was the most appropriate to take.
Dumas said there were too many Cabinet notes in T&T, which generated more annually than the combined figure for the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Jamaica and Barbados.” Meanwhile, former chairman of the Police Service Commission and the Public Service Commission Kenneth Lalla said Gopeesingh was free to embark on the actions he proposed in the wake of the failure of the Teaching Service Commission to fill the vacancies in the service.
He said Gopeesingh was entitled to do all he could to ensure vacancies were filled in the best interest of the service and the nation as a whole.
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