Attorney General John Jeremie has fired shots at the Law Association of T&T in defence of Prime Minister Patrick Manning and a retired judge on various recent issues–including alleging that the association's president spoke "a lie" in one matter. Issuing the salvoes during yesterday's debate of the 2010 budget in the Senate, Jeremie–without calling names–said:
"I must note the remarks made by the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago president attacking a retired judge of Appeal who stated the orthodox position on the inability of an inferior court to use an affidavit which had been struck out in those proceedings." "I am the Attorney General, I am used to attack. But when the president of our Law Association speaks a lie, I am obliged to call him out," Jeremie declared, without naming Law Association president Martin Daly. Jeremie devoted the majority of his budget contribution to replying on issues which have created tensions between the Government and the Law Association all year.
Among them, the PM's veto of candidates for the post of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the matter of Justice Rajendra Narine's submission to the DPP and police–for investigation–of an affidavit by Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr. Bakr's affidavit had alleged that a deal had been made between his group and the PNM. The document was struck out of local and international court deliberations on issues between Government and the Muslimeen. Jeremie's first shot was issued on the matter of the Prime Minister's veto right in the appointment of chief legal officers, including the DPP, Solicitor General and Chief Parliamentary Counsel. Jeremie said the PM, as head of the executive, was given a role in the Constitution, in determining whether any persons should occupy these offices Stating that this was a common-sense provision empowered by the Constitution, Jeremie added, "Before members of the public seek to condemn, as the president of the Law Association has sought to so, the exercise of this power, we should all be cognisant of the fact that there should be a presumption that the Prime Minister will not act capriciously in making appointments to executive posts, in particular to key executive positions."
Jeremie revealed that he had encountered a chief legal officer who had hid an opinion done by a Queen's Counsel retained by him. That opinion advised on the laying of a criminal charge in respect of prominent people in the society, Jeremie said. Jeremie said the officer commissioned the opinion at state expense, but hid it, choosing not to consult with the AG on the matter "for reasons best known to himself." "A copy of that opinion has recently been passed to me by its author and has been relayed to me by the present holder of the post," Jeremie added. Jeremie said the single error by that legal officer "might well have cost the state a billion dollars." He said quantification of the damage was being assessed and steps to be pursued were being worked out by people hired at great state expense. He said if the Prime Minister had concerns about a person who was to fill a post of chief legal officer, the PM had a right to exercise a veto. "The significance of this disclosure is to demonstrate that the Prime Minister, as head of the executive, had a right and a corresponding duty under the constitutional and legitimate authority to determine who the chief legal officers in the state's executive branch should be," Jeremie said.
"Having said that, I condemn the irresponsible and convenient statements by the president of the Law Association last week who made remarks in opposition to the basic right of the Prime Minister as is established in the Constitution. "The Law Association president was reported to have predicted that had the veto been challenged it would have been successfully so. "This is the leader of an association which speaks for 2,500 lawyers, flying in the face of the express terms set out in the Constitution and before the Privy Council has had a say in this matter on two cases now pending before it." While agreeing that the posts of chief legal officers should be filled quickly, Jeremie said: "These are pivotal posts. This country faces a crisis again of considerable proportions from white-collar crime perhaps more complex and greater than any we have faced in the past–now more than ever courage is needed in all executive positions." Jeremie then proceeded to comment on remarks made by the association's president against a retired Judge of Appeal who had commented on the Muslimeen affidavit. Jeremie agreed with the retired judge