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Ramlogan, Volney must go—Rowley
Minutes after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley demanded that Parliament be convened to repeal Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011, the Government announced that Parliament would resume today to repeal the controversial section.
The Sunday Guardian reported exclusively that businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who are facing fraud charges, were expected to walk free because of Section 34 of the act which was proclaimed by President George Maxwell Richards on August 27. The legislation was intended to end preliminary inquiries in the magistrates court.
The two businessmen are also wanted to answer charges in the United States relating to alleged fraud in the Piarco Airport Development project. Speaking at a hastily arranged news conference at his Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, office yesterday, Rowley said the Government had been given the required support for the legislation on the understanding that it would implement specific, essential support mechanisms before the legislation was proclaimed.
Rowley said those measures included:
• Additional Masters of the Court to be appointed
• Criminal procedure rules to be brought to Parliament to let the new system function
• The judiciary had to reorganise itself to deal with the anticipated flood of applications.
Rowley said none of those requirements was implemented. He said the decision was viewed with “shock, consternation and betrayal” by the Opposition People’s National Movement. “Why the surreptitious, undue haste to proclaim this legislation? The answer, we fear, is consistent with the perception that the Government is for its people and not the people,” Rowley said. He described the development as “scandalous” and claimed the Government was engaging in “criminal conduct.”
Rowley said if the Government failed to reconvene Parliament, the PNM was preparing to lead a demonstration of citizens outside the Office of the Prime Minister tomorrow morning and then go to President’s House to present a signed petition “for the protection from the vulgar and corrupt actions of the Government of Trinidad & Tobago.” Parliament has been on its usual mid-year break and was not expected to meet today.
Rowley also said Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Justice Minister Herbert Volney must resign. “The people who facilitated this should not be holding ministerial office...Damage has been done, somebody has to be held accountable and all I can say to the people of T&T in this matter is, ‘You have been warned,’” he charged.
The Opposition also intends to write to the governments of the US, United Kingdom, France, Canada and the Netherlands, and to the United Nations, the Organisation of American States and Caricom. Rowley said the Government’s actions had the potential to damage the relationship between the US and Trinidad and Tobago.
He said the governments and agencies would be told the Government was “a danger to the people of Trinidad & Tobago because it uses its power in Cabinet and its majority in Parliament to facilitate criminal conduct. That is what the letters will say.” Rowley said if the Opposition was not satisfied with the outcome of deliberations in Parliament, citizens would be mobilised to protest against the Government.
Section 34 (2) of the act states: “On an application by the accused, a Judge shall discharge an accused if the proceedings were instituted prior to the coming into force of this Act and the trial has not commenced within seven years after the proceedings were instituted, except (a) in the case of matters listed in Schedule 6; or (b) where the accused has evaded the process of the Court and the trial on indictment has, for that reason, not commenced.”
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