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Ramadhar on Section 34: T&T, I am sorry
Congress of the People (COP) leader and chairman of the Legislative Review Committee, Prakash Ramadhar, has issued a personal apology to T&T for any part he may have played in the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act 2011, which he described as a “fiasco.”
In the same breath, however, Ramadhar said the section had been changed and the new one never came before the committee for its input. He was speaking at a press conference yesterday at the COP’s Flagship House, Broome Street, Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain. The controversial Section 34 would had allowed people to have their cases thrown out ten years after the alleged commission of the offence, once no trial had begun.
It created an outcry, however, when Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson became the first to apply to be discharged after it was proclaimed on August 31. “The Section 34 which was introduced in the Senate never came before the LRC for its determination or input,” said Ramadhar, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs. He added: “That came unilaterally from the Senate. It was unanimously voted upon and brought back down to the House.
“I just wanted to make that clarification abundantly clear so there would be no misunderstanding the LRC ever deliberated upon Section 34 that was ultimately passed by both Houses.” However, Ramadhar said he was not trying to avoid responsibility for the controversy caused by the early proclamation of the particular section of the act. “I want to take responsibility as far as personally as I can and to apologise, really, on reflection.
It was an awful thing. “We voted on it... all of us. I am not trying to absolve myself of personal blame on this matter. I take responsibility for that, like everyone else who voted for it,” Ramadhar said. He said commitments and assurances were made by Justice Minister Herbert Volney that before the proclamation of the act “things would have to be put into place.”
“So that when the act came into force all the infrastructure and the rules would have been in place so that it would have been a seamless transition from the old system to the new system,” Ramadhar added. He said the restoration of trust was vital to the public and one way to ensure that happened was for the truth to be told. Ramadhar said he had requested a meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar to discuss the way forward.
He added: “The nation would want to know in detail and hopefully we would be able to get those details to the population, so that we, as a people, could feel more confident to ensure that our systems are there to ensure these things which have occurred do not occur in the future and to strengthen the institutions to prevent these things from happening.” Asked whether Cabinet had a collective responsibility to resign because of the controversy, Ramadhar said in life there were extremes and between those extremes there was “a lot of area.”
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