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Manning on Section 34: I would have broken ranks with PNM vote
Former prime minister Patrick Manning has said the controversial Section 34 was so dangerous he would have broken PNM ranks and not have voted for it in Parliament, even if his PNM colleagues supported it. Manning, now recuperating from a stroke, was commenting on Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act 2011 issue for which Herbert Volney was fired from the Justice Ministry and on which the Opposition PNM is now calling for Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s resignation.
The section was repealed recently after concerns were raised about it. There had been fears that businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson might have walked free thanks to its stipulations. Volney later took responsibility for its early proclamation. The PM said she fired him for misrepresenting the Judiciary’s opinions on the issue.
Manning said in a statement yesterday: “I wish to remind the nation that though I was present in the Parliament on 18th November, 2011 when the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 was debated and passed. The records will show that I was not present when the vote was taken.
“I was also not present for the vote when the amended bill came from the Senate on 9th December, 2011. I am now making it absolutely clear that had I been present, I would not have voted in support of the bill, either in its original or amended form.” Manning added: “I totally reject Section 34 which would have paved the way for corrupt persons to escape the law. I would never have agreed to Schedule 6 omitting corruption offences.
“My position would have been completely different from the rest of the Parliament, including my own party colleagues. They said, ‘yes.’ I would have said, ‘no.’” Manning said: “This issue is of fundamental importance to the future of our society. I therefore thought it important enough, in the midst of my recuperation, to make my position clear.
“I observe the unfolding drama of Section 34 and pray to God that our nation be spared the consequences of an enormous and tragic failure on the part of the Parliament of T&T.” The PNM’s Diego Martin Central Youth League, reinforcing PNM’s call for Ramlogan’s resignation, said an independent probe of the Section 34 issue was needed. The league also felt Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar should resign as Cabinet’s head.
The league stated: “Youths are observing closely as the Prime Minister attempts to use PR and stop-gap measures when faced with one of the biggest political scandals in T&T. “To date, no one from Government can explain who manipulated Section 34 between the Lower and Upper House of Representatives and why such manipulation occurred. In our opinion there are only two possibilities. “
The group added: “The first is the Cabinet and its legal adviser the Attorney General were asleep when Volney brought his note for partial proclamation. “If this is what transpired then it is a clear case of criminal negligence and both the legal adviser to the Cabinet and the chairperson of the Cabinet (PM ) should resign. “The only other possibility is there was a multi-faceted conspiracy that involved the wider membership of the Cabinet.”
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