Absolutely no Cabinet directive was given to Minister of Works and Infrastructure Jack Warner to withdraw a petition demanding the enforcement of hanging in T&T. This, according to Justice Minister Herbert Volney who charged that Warner had "misread" the sentiments of his Cabinet colleagues and insisted that Warner acted on his own accord when he made the decision to withdraw his highly-publicised petition. "I thought that Mr Warner misread the sentiment of the Cabinet because no one told him he should not pursue his petition," Volney said in a telephone interview yesterday. He said he believed Warner took the decision to suspend the petition because Warner thought that he should instead wait for the Hanging Bill to be brought to Parliament.
The bill to categorise murder and hang convicted killers was not passed in Parliament last year because the Opposition refused to support it. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who was very vocal about the petition, had said the Cabinet did not sanction the move and suggested that it would be "foolhardy" for any minister to sign it. During Parliament's tea break on Friday, Warner, speaking to members of the media, said his initiative was well intended but after a meeting with Cabinet, he got the impression that however remote it was, it might have caused some "disaffection." Coming out in strong defence of the Government, Volney said this was far from the truth.
"Mr Warner must have had his own reason for withdrawing his petition and he is entitled to his own opinion but this issues was not a matter for discussion and no member of Cabinet told Mr Warner to stop his petition," he said. "He took it upon himself to withdraw his petition, maybe he is now waiting on Cabinet to bring the Hanging Bill which would be represented in Parliament." Asked if he believed Warner went about generating support for his petition in the wrong manner, Volney described the move as "somewhat premature." "This is really for Mr Warner to answer and not for me to cast judgment...I may have very well done the same thing," he said. "It was well meaning, but it was somewhat premature to do."
Warner's petition titled "A Fisherman's Cry," was launched at his constituency office in Chaguanas. He had planned to have the petition laid in Parliament and given to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and to Opposition Leader Keith Rowley. Its title alludes to the three fishermen-brothers Ravi, 26, and Kasinath Ramsaran, 31, and friend Pream Squires, 41, who were murdered at sea last month. Saying he was well prepared to sign the petition, Volney said he believed it would have got tremendous support from the public. "I was readily prepared to sign the petition on the ground of getting the public behind the petition," he said.