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Saturday, July 26, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Ex-solicitor general on collusion claims: Probe must go on
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has called on former solicitor general Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell to clarify whether she sent an October 28, 2013 letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the prison litigation issue as she had advised him that it was sent and had forwarded a signed copy to his office. The AG made the call in a statement last night, after Donaldson-Honeywell yesterday issued a press release on the letters she wrote to the PM in August 2013 seeking an investigation into her claims of collusion involving attorneys in prison litigation cases and her apparent subsequent amendment to this. In her statement yesterday, which seemed to be spurred by continued raging public debate over the matter, Donaldson-Honeywell said at no time did she withdraw her call for a probe into the matter. She confirmed she did draft a letter, headed “Confidential and Without Prejudice”, on the issue but she said she was “no longer in a position to have the records checked to determine whether it was sent.”
Questions about the issue have arisen after an August 30, 2013 letter by Donaldson-Honeywell to the Prime Minister emerged in the media recently. In that first letter, Donaldson-Honeywell requested a probe into attorneys involved in litigation against the State. She claimed there were concerns about a breach of professional ethics for indirect or direct financial gain, adding she was concerned the attorneys were engaged in an unethical business venture. An unsigned October 2013 letter purportedly retracted this request, but Ramlogan subsequently produced a signed copy of a letter written by Donaldson-Honeywell to the PM, where Donaldson-Honeywell allegedly withdrew her call for an investigation into the matter. There was receipt acknowledged by the Ministry of the Attorney General dated November 2013. Breaking her silence on the issue, Donaldson-Honeywell, now in private practice, yesterday issued a statement on a letterhead bearing the name “Keystone Law”.
Honeywell said concerns over prison litigation matters were brought to her attention by the Prison Officers Association and other concerned parties. She said because she considered the issue to be confidential, she directed her concerns directly to Persad-Bissessar, adding the main aim of this was to get a probe conducted. She said the AG, after the letter was passed to him by the PM, called her into a meeting and the matter was discussed. She said during those discussions, the AG assured her steps would be taken to address all of the concerns she raised.
She added: “It was agreed that there should be a general investigation into prison litigation which would take into account the concerns of prison officers as well as investigate whether practices in prison litigation were undermining the fair prospects of the State in defending such matters. “At no time did I then, or at any time since indicate that I no longer saw the need for such investigation.”
Donaldson-Honeywell confirmed that she did draft a second letter to the PM to let her (Persad-Bissessar) know that the matters she (Donaldson-Honeywell) raised were being investigated. However, she said she was now unable to say whether this letter was ever dispatched. Donaldson-Honeywell pointed out that she believed the PM was no longer a part of the matter, since the PM had placed its investigation into his hands. She said now that she was in private practice, she also wished not to intervene any further in the matter. Efforts to contact Donaldson-Honeywell yesterday for clarification on various aspects of the issue — including her “confidential reasons” for writing the PM over the AG’s head and if the prison issue had anything to do with her resignation — were unsuccessful as calls to her cellphone and land line went unanswered.
Matters to be addressed concerning prison litigation were brought to my attention by concerned persons, including the Prison Officers Association. For confidential reasons I felt it necessary to bring these issues directly to the attention of the Hon Prime Minister and did so by way of the August 30, 2013 letter which was sent under confidential cover but is now in the public domain. The main thrust of the letter was simply to get action on an investigation into matters adversely affecting the State’s defence in prison litigation. The Attorney General having received the letter, sent to him by the Prime Minister, called me to discuss it and during discussions I was assured that steps would be taken to have all of the concerns raised addressed.
It was agreed that there should be a general investigation into prison litigation which would take into account the concerns of prison officers as well as investigate whether practices in prison litigation were undermining the fair prospects of the State in defending such matters. At no time did I then, or at any time since indicate that I no longer saw the need for such investigation. I was required to let the Prime Minister know that the matter I had raised with her was being addressed and her further intervention was not needed. I did draft the letter, headed “confidential and Without Prejudice”, a copy of which I saw published in the Sunday Express but I am no longer in a position to have the records checked to determine whether it was sent. In any event the Prime Minister, having taken action as she did, I felt I had no further role to play. The matter was now in the hands of the Attorney General. As an attorney-at-law in private practice and having demitted office as solicitor general, I do not propose to intervene further in the matter.”
More Info: Donaldson-Honeywell was appointed solicitor general in 2010 under the People’s National Movement (PNM) administration, after the post was vacant for four years. She resigned from the AG’s office November 12, 2013, effective January 2014. When Donaldson-Honeywell had resigned she told the T&T Guardian she resigned for “personal reasons” and that she did not make any report of alleged corruption in her resignation letter. She had said then that she and the AG were on cordial terms and she had found him to be a person she did not have a problem with. She said she wanted to reserve comment on her resignation. Donaldson-Honeywell’s letter to the Prime Minister on the prison litigation issues was dated August 30, 2013, three months before her resignation.