Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan on Friday chastised Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for not disclosing the legal advice he obtained to spare Chief Justice Ivor Archie impeachment.
He made his comments hours after Rowley said he would not take action against Archie based on legal advice provided.
In a telephone interview, Sinanan said he was disappointed how Rowley handled the matter.
“It is open to the Prime Minister to say that I have reviewed the evidence and I see that there is nothing as far as I am concerned to trigger Section 137. But do not cloud it and sweep it under the proverbial carpet by saying, well, you know, I received legal advice.”
Sinanan said taxpayers paid for that advice and the PM owed it to the citizenry to give details on such.
“Who paid for that advice? It is taxpayers. An explanation should have been given. In my humble view. He (PM) has fallen short of that.”
On Thursday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Rowley said he would take no action against Archie which meant that the call for impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice had been struck down.
The PM was reluctant to say anything on the matter because there is a case (at the pre-action protocol stage) in which there is an allegation that there is a conspiracy between himself and the CJ.
In December 2018, the Law Association of T&T (LATT) wrote Rowley stating there was sufficient evidence to support a referral under Section 137 for him to determine whether a representation to the President under Section 137 was warranted.
It supported its advice with the legal opinions of two regional jurists.
Rowley sought and received legal advice on the LATT’s and it advised no action.
Under Section 137, Rowley has the power to ask the President to appoint a tribunal to investigate allegations of misconduct made against the CJ.
To compound matters, Sinanan said the PM missed the mark by politicising the issue.
“By talking about the UNC trap..... politicising it to the extent that it shows very clearly that when you sit on the political fence too long you suffer from political haemorrhoids.”
Sinanan said the decision will no doubt put the country in a state of uneasiness “because clearly, the respect for the Office of the CJ has waned because of these allegations. I don’t know if the average citizen in this climate will feel confident going before the Court of Appeal where the Chief Justice is presiding with this cloud hanging over his head which has now been removed.”
In a nutshell, Sinanan said the CJ “got a bligh.”
Israel Khan, SC also shared a similar view to Sinanan, stating that the PM owes “the entire country a reason for not triggering a Section 137 tribunal in the light of the serious allegations against the CJ.”
Khan said no one knows who gave that legal opinion to the PM, which he should not have kept a secret.
“The next step is to see if this legal opinion is sensible. In the face of all this we have to see if the Prime Minister is acting reasonable and if he is not acting reasonable that law permits any citizen to file for judicial review against his inaction.”
He said LATT can also challenge the legal opinion if it proves bogus.
In response to the attorney’s suggesting to be open and transparent with the legal opinion, the PM continued to keep the name of the attorney who advised him close to his chest.
In a thread of WhatsApp messages with Guardian Media yesterday, Rowley was told that there have been calls by several members of the legal fraternity for him to disclose who he obtained legal advice from to which the PM responded, “if they were paying attention they must heard me say that I did not rely on the AG for the advice on this matter.”
Asked whom he got the advice from, Rowley wrote: “An independent Senior Counsel who was supplied with all the documents provided to me by the Law Association.”
Asked who was the Senior Counsel, Rowley messaged: “Didn’t you hear me say on Thursday that I will speak to the issue again.”
On Friday, a judicial source said judges were shocked and disappointed by the legal advice.