Before he was fired last night, former Justice Minister Herbert Volney spoke to the T&T Guardian on the controversy surrounding Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act that led to his dismissal.
T&T Guardian, September 14: “My own colleagues are out to get me. I know one in particular who has always been on a turf war with me. I took full responsibility for everything. “I explained what and why it happened. No one could dispute anything I said. I challenge anyone to prove otherwise. “If they want my job they have to take it from me. I have no intention of giving them my job.” Sunday Guardian, September 16, on whether the PP administration could survive Section 34:
“Of course. It is a ten-day wonder, if as long.”
On the perception that Government surreptitiously moved to tamper with Section 34: “The Government did not move surreptitiously or surreptitiously move to tamper or to tamper surreptitiously with the clause. “The Government was and is always listening to and is mindful of public opinion no matter how small it is because we are responsible for listening to even the minority view in the country as well as the majority view. “We felt that out of an abundance of caution that the best thing to do was to remove the clause that has caused certain people in the country a bit of distress.”
On why the clause was proclaimed on Aug 31: “In July, there was a meeting of the inter-ministerial/judiciary task force on the criminal justice sector. It was attended by ministers of Government, including the then acting Attorney General, Ganga Singh. “There was a dialogue with the Chief Justice and myself on the dates for the implementation and operationalising of the new system of sufficiency hearings to replace the old and present system of preliminary inquiries. “At the end of the discussions it was agreed by all parties that the new law would take effect on January 2. It was also agreed there would be timelines and those timelines were settled largely at that meeting. “...You know unless there is certainty in introducing change and in this case unless a date was fixed certain for the operationalism of the new system no one would take preparing for it seriously. “In order to facilitate that it was necessary for the legislation act to be proclaimed in part so that governance would recognise the existence of the need in a live statute, because when a statute is enacted and requires a proclamation it gets its life from the proclamation.”
On whether the Government should have done things differently: “I have to admit it was an oversight, firstly of the Ministry of Justice, which was responsible for piloting the measure, and the Parliament, which did not pick up on it in the debate and include in the schedule the so-called white-collar crime and the other offences that we now in hindsight realise should have been included. It was not deliberate.”