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AG denies Section 34 was a blunder
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday denied Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 was a blunder. In defending the Government’s decision to repeal the controversial clause, which was proclaimed on August 27, Ramlogan said the Government was merely being “cautious.” This comes days after the Sunday Guardian reported exclusively businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who are charged with fraud, could be set free under that section.
The AG made the statement to reporters after the launch of the Drug Treatment Court pilot project at City Hall, San Fernando. He said: “Having listened to the concerns that have been expressed, in light of the divergence of legal opinions expressed about what could be the possible interpretations of Section 34, we decided to err on the side of caution and the Honourable Prime Minister, in her wisdom, decided to convene Parliament to repeal that section in its entirety to preclude any possibility of any defendant avoiding a criminal trial which is necessary in the public interest.”
He said the Government felt very strongly that everyone was equal before the law and must be subject to the law. Asked if the repeal was an admission the Government had made a blunder, he said: “No, I don’t think so. I think in any law there is bound to be room for more than one interpretation. “When you look at the section, it is possible that a defendant can argue that, look, I should not be tried. But when you look at it the other way, it is equally open to the prosecution and the state to resist that quite easily.
“But rather than leave it to chance, we felt that the better thing to do in this case would be to repeal it in its entirety.”
Told there was a perception that the clause was put there deliberately so Galbaransingh and Ferguson could walk free, he said: “Well, I think that is preposterous, quite frankly. If that is so, then that means that the Independent Senators, the entire Opposition and the Government were all party to something like that.
“I think quite frankly that is fanciful and our independent bench, our Opposition bench and indeed the Government... we pass laws not by reference to personalities, we pass laws by reference to what we think is right and just.” Responding to Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley’s call for him and Justice Herbert Volney to resign, he said Rowley should consider resigning as well, since he had supported the measure. “We needed a special majority,” he pointed out. “Without Dr Rowley’s support, this could never have become law.”
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