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Volney says: My conscience is clear
Former justice minister Herbert Volney offered his resignation to the Prime Minister on Thursday afternoon, and only knew he had been fired when he heard her say so on television. Volney, who was dismissed ten days after the Section 34 furore broke, has admitted to an “error of governance attributed to inexperience.” He said while he trusted the PM’s judgment, he was bitterly disappointed and deeply hurt by the way he was dismissed.
He said the PM had a meeting with him at 4.30 pm on Thursday at her office, at which National Security Minister Jack Warner was present. “The Prime Minister and I had a cordial discussion. I will not breach the confidentiality of this. I offered my resignation to the Prime Minister at that time,” he added. But, he said, he was not told that he was being dismissed, but he learned he was being fired via the PM’s television announcement.
Volney likened this to the firing by fax of T&T consul Alexander Lau in 1995 during the Manning administration’s tenure. He told the T&T Guardian: “I accept my dismissal with grace. I now have my constituents to see about. “I’m disappointed at the turn of events. I left the Bench to come to try to make a difference.”
His dismissal followed two weeks of furore over the controversial Section 34 issue concerning the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, broken by a Guardian story of September 9. On Thursday night, the PM said she had investigated and found Volney had misrepresented to the Cabinet the opinions of the CJ and DPP on the matter. The PM said there had not been adequate consultations with the two on the partial proclamation of the act, as Volney had claimed to the Cabinet.
Asked yesterday if he had apologised to the Chief Justice or the Director of Public Prosecutions, Volney said tersely: “I have no apology for either of those two persons.” Explaining the events that led to his departure from the Cabinet, he said: “I felt the proclamation was a matter of governance, that is of administrative governance, as opposed to having to consult with the CJ, he having given a date for the implementation of the act.
“It was an error on my part and I have taken full responsibility for it, and that’s why I offered my resignation to the Prime Minister at her office Thursday evening.” Volney said he fully expected members of the public would try to link his error with sinister motives concerning businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who are on fraud charges, and who it was felt might walk free thanks to Section 34. “But let them talk,” he said.
“Talk is cheap...My conscience is clear.” “I wish my successor all the very best and I think she will find everything in place. I am prepared to make available to her all the help that she may require of me. My demise had nothing to do with my work in the ministry.” Volney, 59, spoke in an interview from his St Joseph home as he sat watching cartoons with his young son Justin. He said, in measured and somewhat sad tones, “It’s something I haven’t been able to do for a long time.”
Volney later went to his St Joseph constituency office. He said he was not giving up his seat in Parliament. Asked if he thought he still had the credibility to carry on as MP after the Section 34 issue and the basis of his dismissal, he said: “That has never crossed my mind...I’ll fully support my party and my Prime Minister and intend to work very hard to ensure the PNM does not get into the East-West Corridors of power on my watch. I will also vote for my Government’s bills in Parliament.”
Volney said he would start walking his constituency next Monday morning to meet with constituents and address them one on one. He declined to say who in the UNC had recruited him to join the party in 2010, and remained mum when presented with several high-profile government names. He said he’d gone past the dismissal and had forgiven “those who trespassed against me.” He said one individual in Cabinet who had wanted him gone had succeeded.
“I know of at least one such person,” he added, declining to identify the person. Asked if his colleagues contacted him after he was dismissed, he said shortly, “I don’t want to say—but I can tell you Mr Warner came to see me on Thursday night.”
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