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Friday, August 01, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Former attorneys general on prison scandal: No support from Dana for AG
Three former attorneys general picked apart slain state prosecutor Dana Seetahal’s last article “Investigate what, exactly?’ published in the May 4 Sunday Express and have found no evidence of support for current Attorney General Anand Ramlogan in the present controversy over the solicitor general and the prison litigation issue.
In the hours after Seetahal’s murder, Ramlogan said the country had lost a “titan” and made reference to her last article, saying that she was one of the few people who provided support for him in this matter. “I have lost a dear friend and colleague. Our last conversation was about her column in yesterday’s Express. It provided support for me,” Ramlogan stated in his letter then. He had said Seetahal not only came to his defence but also supported his position.
But three former AGs—Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, John Jeremie, SC, and Bridgid Annisette-George spoke with the Sunday Guardian in the days after Seetahal’s assassination and all three found that Seetahal’s widely-read article did not support Ramlogan as he interpreted.
Maharaj: It’s no defence
Maharaj said Seetahal’s column “cannot properly be put forward by the Attorney General as a defence to the allegations.”
“Dana Seetahal stated that the Solicitor General referred to the conduct of certain attorneys who were acting for certain prisoners and those investigations against those lawyers were to be conducted by the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Association. Seetahal also referred to the allegations in the Solicitor General’s letter which referred to certain key office holders who allegedly increasingly took action to support the business of prisoners’ litigation against the State for the direct or indirect financial gain,” Maharaj said.
He said taking Seetahal’s points into consideration, the question that should follow was who the Solicitor General was referring to when she said “certain key office holders?” “She was certainly not referring to the certain private lawyers who appeared for certain prisoners against the State. That is why there is need for a fair, independent and impartial investigation to identify the individuals,” he said.
“She was asking the Prime Minister in the last paragraph of her letter to cause an investigation in the matter by the Inspector of Prisons, the Law Association and the Police Service,” he said. Maharaj said if office holders of the State were supporting the alleged business of certain private lawyers in the prison litigation for direct or indirect financial gain “that could amount to corruption and of perverting the course of public justice which are criminal offences.”
Jeremie, SC, agrees
Former People’s National Movement (PNM) AG, John Jeremie also added his voice to the matter. “Unfortunately even after the most careful study, I am unable to find any expression of ‘support’ in the said column for the Honourable Attorney General (as he put it) in terms of the ‘present dispute’ involving the prison service litigation in the column,” Jeremie said. Jeremie said there were queries raised in the column as to whether the Solicitor General should simply have reported the matter to the Prime Minister.
“Miss Seetahal suggested that the police and the Law Association might have been better placed to treat with aspects of the investigation. There is not stated anywhere in the column support for the Honourable Attorney General in this matter,” he added.
Annisette-George: Important piece of information missing
Annisette-George said Seetahal’s last article could be interpreted in two ways— neither of which showed support for the Attorney General. In an email response to the Sunday Guardian, she said, “One interpretation could be a challenge to credibility and another very valid interpretation could, in our very Trini way, be saying that she dare not!”
Annisette-George said the article made some readers ponder why the Solicitor General would bypass her immediate supervisor—the Honourable Attorney General—and complain to his boss—the Honourable Prime Minister and still find it necessary to use such “cautious and covert language.”
“The shelter which the Honourable Attorney General found in the article is certainly subject to interpretation, and that is why an independent investigation is necessary to settle all interpretations and de-shroud all of the facts after full and frank disclosure is made” she said. Annisette-George said Ramlogan has neither admitted or denied in public whether any of the Solicitor General complaints were ever brought to his attention before she turned to the Prime Minister.
“To me that is an important piece of information missing from the factual matrix,” she said. “It escapes me to understand how the Honourable Attorney General could take refuge in the said article. The article has never said that there was no justification for an investigation.” she said. It could be that the author was “advancing that the Law Association was the only and the proper authority to undertake an independent investigation of the complaints of the then Solicitor General,” Annisette-George added.
“The article highlights the covert language of the letter of the SG and ends with a very poignant question: If there is evidence of an unethical business venture engaged in by attorneys-at-law acting for prisoners or key office holders taking action to support the unethical business for financial gain, why has she not referred to it?”