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T&T under attack—Rowley
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has called on his supporters, ordinary citizens and trade unions to march alongside him tomorrow in protest against the recent Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 debacle. Rowley issued the appeal yesterday evening at the Point Cumana Community Centre in Glencoe, while addressing scores of constituents during Diego Martin West constituency’s annual conference.
In his hour-long address Rowley invited people who were affected by the issue or felt angered by it to join with the PNM in a march from the Red House, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, to President’s House in St Ann’s. The march is expected to begin at 1 pm. “We will march to President’s House and tell the president that the country is under attack,” Rowley said to his cheering supporters.
“The President must know that the people of this country are under attack and the Government is allowing criminals to go free in this country,” Rowley added. Rowley said as part of the march, a petition addressed to President George Maxwell Richards would be circulated and signed by participants. He did not give further details of the contents of the proposed petition.
Rowley said he had written several letters on the issue which were sent to foreign groups as well as to the local diplomatic missions of some nations, including the United States, French, Dutch and Canadian embassies. He said by writing the letters, he was representing not only his supporters but also all the citizens of T&T.
While delivering the speech, Rowley launched a fiery attack on several government officials who he said were responsible for the “secret” proclamation of Clause 34 of the controversial legislation. He said the PNM originally supported the act, which sought to ease a backlog of more than 400,000 cases which were engaging the judiciary, because of assurances the Government made while it was being debated.
Rowley said that he was assured that the legislation would not be proclaimed until additional courts were built and with the judiciary’s co-operation in its implementation. He said the proclamation of the section in August was contrary to the assurance given to him and the Opposition. He also called for the removal of two senior government ministers who piloted the highly-criticised legislation in Parliament.
“Today I renew the call for the resignation of Justice Minister Herbert Volney,” Rowley said. Rowley was also critical of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and questioned his ability to manage the litigation which he claimed would surface in the aftermath of the proclamation of the act.
An exclusive Sunday Guardian article two weeks ago discovered that among the beneficiaries of the section would be former UNC financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson who are facing fraud charges arising out of the Piarco Airport project. The act was eventually repealed during an emergency sitting of Parliament last week.
The section of the act allows people who have not faced trial for offences committed ten years ago to apply to a High Court judge to have the matters against them struck out. Both businessmen, along with several government ministers and officials, are facing fraud charges and are before a preliminary inquiry in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court. The charges stem from the construction of the $1.6 billion Piarco Airport.
Since the proclamation of the act on August 31, almost all of the accused facing charges out of the airport’s construction have filed applications in the High Court Registry to have their matters dismissed. Court dates for hearing their applications had not been set by the Scheduling Committee of the judiciary up to Friday but are expected to be heard early in the new law term, which opens today.
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