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Rowley on controversial Section 34: $2m payback to UNC financiers
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley suggested yesterday the proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 was a possible $2 million payback for two businessmen who were once UNC financiers. He said so during his contribution to yesterday’s special debate in Parliament to repeal that section of the act.
Rowley also demanded Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar explain why her People’s Partnership Cabinet advised President George Maxwell Richards to proclaim the section. The act was intended to eliminate preliminary inquiries in the magistrates court. “But the beneficiaries known to us today, who have approached the court are known party financiers who have identified themselves as such in their own pleadings and for whom I have seen a cheque for $2 million to their party in the last election,” Rowley told legislators.
He did not call the names of the financiers. However, two former financiers of the United National Congress—businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh—were seen as immediate beneficiaries of the newly-proclaimed law. The two are wanted in the US to answer fraud and money-laundering charges. Rowley said apart from Galbaransingh and Ferguson, there would be other beneficiaries of the law.
He said the single most important matter to be explained in the entire debate was why the section was secretly proclaimed during the golden jubilee celebrations two weeks ago. He said many observers were demanding to know why that section of the bill was proclaimed. “Who did it? Who advanced this to the Cabinet? Why did they do that, and why did the Cabinet agree to give this benefit in this way?” he demanded of Persad-Bissessar.
He told the Government: “It is you who did this a few days ago. I am asking you now why did you do it?” Rowley said it was the Cabinet which ordered the proclamation of the section and not the Parliament. “And unless all of you could tell this Parliament why you did this to the satisfaction of the people of T&T, you all stand accused of action to benefit people who are trying to evade the courts,” he said.
The proclamation of the section of the act was made public in an exclusive Sunday Guardian report on September 9. He said the Government effectively gave certain people “a head start to go to the court” by keeping the proclamation quiet. “This was done in the dead of the night of the celebration of the anniversary... and to add insult to injury, it comes into effect on the day of Independence itself. The unkindest cut of all,“ he added.
Rowley said the matter would reach the Privy Council because people would challenge it. He also noted that Section 34 was not contained in the original bill. Rowley said the Opposition did not give unqualified support for the legislation when it was debated in November last year but supported it on condition that other related measures would be implemented before it was proclaimed.
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