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Review Senate President’s acting role says Opposition Leader (with CNC3 video)
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley says the existing arrangement allowing for the Senate President to act as Head of State during the absence of the incumbent President must be reviewed. Rowley said that position was based on comments in a statement by acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith on the Section 34 fiasco. He was speaking at Thursday night’s PNM public meeting in Diego Martin.
After leading a huge demonstration to the Office of the President last month, Rowley presented a petition to Hamel-Smith demanding action against the Government on the Section 34 issue. The acting President subsequently issued a public statement on the matter. Rowley said Hamel-Smith also wrote him a confidential letter.
Rowley said he wrote to the acting President asking that he be allowed to make the contents of the letter public, as it was of importance to the national community. He said he gave the President a two-day deadline to give permission to make the contents of the letter public.
He said he had received no objections, “so I will now tell you what he said...because this is a matter which strikes at the heart of our Constitution,” he said. The subject of the letter, Rowley said, was proclamation of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.
He then read part of the letter, which quoted Hamel-Smith as saying that “nothing in such documentation points to any course of action that was out of the ordinary or from which I could infer that anyone other than Mr Herbert Volney, the Minister of Justice, was responsible for matters relating to the passing and proclamation of the act.” In his public statement on the matter, Hamel-Smith talked about his dual role as Senate President and acting Head of State.
Rowley said that development raised certain serious concerns. “Is it acceptable that a politician from the Parliament could end up in the Office of the President where the rule of law is being undermined by the Cabinet?” he asked. Rowley said that development should tell citizens “from today we have to think about changing the arrangement for the presidency, reform of the Constitution.”
He said there was no mention of the word dual in the Constitution. Hamel-Smith has been acting since September 18. President George Maxwell Richards and his wife, Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, are expected to return on Tuesday. President Richards is expected to complete his second term next January.
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