I write in response to an article published in the T&T Guardian of October 14, entitled Anand getting excessive $$ from flawed children's law–AG.The article purports to quote AG Faris Al-Rawi's comments from his contribution to the Budget debate.
His contribution is not yet available on the Parliament's website and I therefore cannot verify whether the comments attributed to the Honourable AG are true and correct. I am, however, compelled to respond to what has been reported, as it is inaccurate and misleading and could bring the Office of the AG and the court itself into disrepute.
I do in fact represent several children in novel and complex cases that raise serious issues about the rights of the child. The issue is whether it is lawful for the State to detain children in facilities that are not contemplated or sanctioned by the law. These constitutional motions are pending before the High Court.
The article states "the former AG came under fire from Justice Frank Seepersad who questioned why he was bringing the matters before the Court when it was his government who had failed to set up community residences."
No reporter from the T&T Guardian newspaper was present in court when the ex parte hearing for leave to apply for judicial review was heard on September 30, 2015. This can be confirmed with your Ms Yvonne Webb, Associate Editor attached to the south office of your newspaper who had contacted my office to enquire about the hearing because no reporter from the T&T Guardian had attended court that day.
That was in fact the only occasion in which I appeared before Justice Seepersad in connection with these matters.I am therefore astonished that your newspaper can make and such an allegation when no reporter was present in court for the hearing. That such a fabrication can occur is worrying to say the least.
At no time did the Learned Judge make any such comment. Had he done so, I would have immediately objected and made a complaint because it would be highly improper for him to do so.
A judge cannot tell an attorney who is an Officer of the Court representing his client anything about "his government" because a government, once elected, is the government of the Republic of T&T under the constitution.
No judge would question an attorney on why "he was bringing matters before the court when it was his government that failed to set up community residences." The parents on behalf of their children are the ones who bring the action in court and not the attorneys.
The AG's contribution and the comments attributed to the Learned Judge demonstrate a fundamental misconception on the part of the journalist, and the AG. No government was sued in these cases but rather the State. It would be foolish for any AG or court to speak about a "Government" in this context as it is the State that has guaranteed or violated a citizen's constitutional rights.
As AG, Al-Rawi must be aware that it is highly unethical and improper for him to comment on any case against the State whilst it is pending before the courts. That would be, as the titular head of the Bar and a party to the case, extremely prejudicial and highly improper. Al-Rawi himself admitted this when he publicly refused to comment on Jack Warner's extradition matter on the basis that it would be improper for him to do so whilst the matter was before the courts.
The article states that AG Al-Rawi even went so far as to discuss the appropriate level of compensation and hinted that the likely compensation could be $250,000 when "He said recent court rulings show up to $250,000 in damages was awarded recently to a complainant. This means that taxpayers may have to fork out more than $18 million in damages."
This is not only a breach of the sub judice rule that prevents members of Parliament from discussing a matter whilst it is before the court–it can be seen as an attempt to prejudice and influence the court on the issue of the appropriate award of compensation.The Speaker ought to have intervened and stopped the AG on the basis of the clear infringement of the sub judice rule.
That she failed to do so is an indictment on the Parliament and her office as it is a clear violation of the separation of powers that prohibits the Parliament from discussing matters within the domain of the Judiciary.
That the Law Association has remained silent on this egregious violation is unfortunately not surprising having regard to the fact that the President is the former attorney of the political leader of the PNM and the vice-president is now comfortably ensconced as the chairman of a state enterprise being appointed by the PNM.
In all of this, my focus is on the rights of the child and any violation of the constitution that might have occurred. It is unfortunate that this issue appears to have been lost in the rush to score cheap political points.
For avoidance of doubt, I resigned from the office of Attorney General with effect from the 2nd day of February 2015. The legislation in question was proclaimed long after my departure and it is the lack of implementation by the State that is in issue. As an attorney in private practice, I am well within my rights to represent clients in matters against the State. There is ample precedent for this as many of my predecessors have done so without any similar criticism.
The AG will do well to focus his efforts on remedying the situation instead of commenting on the case outside of the court. Of course, it is always open to AG Al-Rawi to represent the State himself (as I did when I was AG) against me in this matter so that I can properly deal with his comments in a court of law.
A copy of this letter is being sent to the Honourable Chief Justice, the Honourable Mister Justice Frank Seepersad, the Honourable Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago and the President of Law Association.
Editor's note: The matter of Anand Ramlogan's involvement, as former Attorney General, in the piloting of the bill which led to the law in question in the current case was raised by the judge involved in the case during the course of these proceedings. However, Ramlogan, one of the attorneys involved in the litigation, was not in court at that time.