You are here
Controversial clause will be repealed retroactively—AG
The Government’s bid to correct the “oversight” of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act includes repealing the section retroactively to the date the law was passed, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said yesterday. “No one is above the law...if a legal challenge is mounted, I’m confident the State will be able to assert its rights,” he said as he tabled amendments to repeal the controversial section.
Ramlogan piloted the three amendments through a stormy session with the Opposition PNM in the House of Representatives yesterday. The repeal amendments from the Government arose after controversy over Section 34. The Sunday Guardian reported exclusively on September 9 that businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who are facing fraud charges on the Piarco Airport project, could go free because of the legislation.
The overall act was intended to end preliminary inquiries in the magistrate’s court. Section 34, however, allows for an application to be made for a case to be thrown out and discharge of the accused if more than ten years have passed since the offence and if their trial has not yet started.
Ramlogan said the new amendments were meant to correct a “clear oversight by the entire Parliament” including Government, Opposition and Independents in failing “to appreciate the unintended consequence and implications of the one provision.” He said: “So the Parliament should man up, take responsibility for the oversight and say there’s a problem and we humbly apologise and say we should correct it...It’s counterproductive to ascribe blame.”
He said the repeal provisions sought to “immunise the State” from legal challenge. Ramlogan said after Section 34 became law, it was evident there was public “disquiet” on the matter and after concern was articulated, the Government showed it was prepared to listen.
He said he had met with the Director of Public Prosecutions and he then sought an immediate audience with the Prime Minister. He said the DPP’s concerns “fell on fertile soil” and Government was prepared to act in the public interest,
Ramlogan said the Prime Minister immediately decided at 7 am on Tuesday that Parliament must be convened and the section would be repealed.
He said the Government had informed the Opposition around 8.30 to 9 am on Tuesday that the Parliament was being convened to deal with the section, yet the PNM had called a media briefing to threaten to hold protests over the issue.
“Political gamesmanship from the Opposition leader. If blame is to be ascribed, blame must be ascribed to all, ” Ramlogan said.
During a break in the session, PNM MP Paula Gopee-Scoon told reporters the Opposition received the Government’s amendments early yesterday morning. Opposition Leader Keith Rowley also said the amendments were not acceptable and deficient and the Opposition had several demands. Ramlogan, during debate, said the amendments required a special-majority vote for passage. Detailing the amendments, he said the repeal of Section 34 will be retroactive to the date of the passage of the legislation.
A clause will be inserted to say that all pending/outstanding applications made under the provision of Section 34 will be permanently stayed. Also, no rights or expectations will be deemed to have been created, or come into effect as a result of the coming into the force of Section 34. Ramlogan described this as a “tack-back.” He said the controversial Section 34 was inserted during the Senate debate on the bill.
He said the initial bill was proposed because the backlog of court cases was too high, with the number of pending cases rising from 69,510 cases in 2006 to more than100,000 in 2011. Saying the Parliament bore collective responsibility for the “oversight” of Section 34 , Ramlogan waded into the Opposition for criticising the situation now. He said PNM leader Rowley and PNM MPs had all voted for the bill when it was presented in the Lower House, and PNM senators supported it in the Upper House, and the PNM had said nothing after the bill was passed or proclaimed.
Ramlogan said it was strange the PNM is distancing itself from the legislation after supporting it. He said the PNM had proposed that the time span in Clause 34 be seven years rather than the ten years the PP had suggested. “Who were you trying to protect with that seven years—Calder Hart?” Ramlogan asked.
Ramlogan, noting the Landate report, said Rowley had no moral authority to call for resignations on the issue. PNM Whip Marlene McDonald objected strenuously to Ramlogan’s charges. Ramlogan said it was not the first time Parliament had been convened to repeal a law, since the PNM administration had done it when the Uff Commission was not gazetted.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.