SCANDALOUS

By Andre Bagoo
September 12, 2012 – newsday.co.tt

Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve FergusonTHE PARLIAMENT sits today to urgently pass legislation to repeal a section of a new law, after the Government’s decision to proclaim the law opened the door to a wave of applications to the Supreme Court which could see businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, as well as several others accused in the Piarco corruption inquiries, walk free without trial.

The Ministry of Communications yesterday morning hastily issued a one-line press release to announce that it will convene the House of Representatives at 1.30 pm for the purpose of repealing Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings Act) 2011, which was proclaimed by President George Maxwell Richards on August 28, mere days ahead of the State’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Independence. Newsday also understands that a sitting of the Senate has also been called for tomorrow.

The Act was passed to abolish preliminary inquiries and replace it with a paper review by a Master of the High Court who would determine if a matter goes to trial. Section 34 of the Act, which was passed last November, allows accused persons to apply to a judge to have cases discharged where the offences involved are alleged to have taken place more than ten years ago. The section was one of six sections of the legislation which came into effect on August 31, under the terms of the President’s proclamation.

Newsday yesterday exclusively reported that on Monday lawyers for Galbaransingh and Ferguson lodged an application under the controversial new section at the High Court seeking a declaration of a not guilty verdict. However, the High Court – which is on vacation and which has not yet had time to put rules in place to handle the new procedure – was yesterday besieged by a wave of similar applications from other persons charged in relation to the Piarco International Airport project.

The question of whether the provision would block any proceedings in the Clico and Udecott cases also arose after lawyers noted the time limit starts from the date of the alleged offence. Both companies – which are subject to ongoing police investigations – have controversial histories going back more than ten years.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday noted the Government had given assurances in Parliament last year that it would not proclaim the legislation before new rules meant to govern the legislation are tabled in Parliament. He described the early proclamation of the new law as “scandalous” and “a betrayal” and called for the immediate resignation of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Minister of Justice Herbert Volney, who had promised the law would not be proclaimed before the new rules.

“Now that these developments have played themselves out in such a disgraceful manner, the PNM calls for the immediate resignation of the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and the Minister of Justice Herbert Volney,” Rowley said at a press conference at the Opposition offices on Charles Street, Port-of-Spain.

He called for action, “Given the scandalous, and I daresay, even criminal conduct of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in using the Cabinet and the Parliament to facilitate the escape of alleged criminal wrongdoing on the part of favoured citizens.”

“The burning question to be answered is why the surreptitious undue haste to proclaim this legislation? The answer, we fear, is consistent with the perception that the Government is a government for its people and not the people.”

Rowley noted that in Parliament on November 18, Volney, who piloted an amendment to the original bill which made the date of limitation run from the date of the alleged offence, had promised that the law would not be proclaimed until after new criminal rules are drafted and presented in Parliament, possibly in a second bill. According to the unrevised Hansard for that debate, Volney said, “While this measure can work without rules because it establishes a framework, I can assure members opposite that nothing is going to be proclaimed before all the necessary measures required to make it succeed happens.”

“It was with some degree of shock, consternation and betrayal that the Opposition has learnt that sections of the Act have been proclaimed,” Rowley said.

The United States government also placed pressure on the Government to act, issuing a press release expressing concern and saying it would be “highly disappointing if, after years of investigation, the case was not brought to trial.” Galbaransingh and Ferguson were in 2005 indicted in a Miami Federal Court, on numerous fraud and money laundering charges stemming from alleged bid rigging between 1996 and 2005 on contracts for the Piarco International Airport.

Though Chief Justice Ivor Archie refused to be drawn into the matter yesterday, Newsday understands the Judiciary was caught unprepared for the proclamation.

The body designated to draft new rules to regulate the implementation of the new legislation, the Rules Committee, is yet to implement new rules to handle criminal cases under the legislation. Further, additional Masters have not yet been appointed to handle the envisioned workload created by the new law.

“Despite the absence of the promised infrastructure, the government has proceeded to make the Act law so that person may now claim the benefit of the Act,” Rowley said. “Without the proclamation, the accused in the Piarco matters would have to submit to a preliminary inquiry which could result in their trial before judge and jury.”

Rowley continued, “It is a cause for alarm to learn that the legislation was proclaimed and put into force, during the 50 th anniversary Independence celebrations, without prior warning, in the circumstance where the preliminary inquiry into the airport charges is about to resume, thereby appearing to facilitate the making of an application to a judge by accused in the Piarco Airport scandal for an order to declare themselves not guilty.”

“The act of proclaiming this legislation, at this time, in breach of the Government assurances to the Parliament, will be perceived as evidence of the power and influence of corrupt individuals over this Government and further undermine respect for rule of law.

Ramlogan, in turn, yesterday pointed out that the legislation had been passed with Opposition support. Rowley said the Opposition only supported the bill last year because of a pledge made by Volney in Parliament that the bill would not be proclaimed before new rules were presented in Parliament. Volney yesterday declined to respond to queries from Newsday, saying, simply “Ask the AG.”

Ahead of tomorrow’s sitting of the Senate, Newsday understands that Independent Senators – who also supported the law under the premise that it would not be proclaimed under a second act – are poised to make demands for the legislation to be retroactive. Independent Senators reported feeling misled by Volney’s assurance that the Act would not be proclaimed until new rules were tabled in Parliament.

Legal sources questioned whether the persons who filed applications on Monday would still have grounds for constitutional relief, even if the section is repealed. They argue the legislation would have to have retroactive effect to be effective.

Amid the mounting pressure, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a press release at 5.48 pm, stating that a statement would be made at the Diplomatic Centre at 7 pm after a “special” meeting of Cabinet and inviting media houses to the Diplomatic Centre for “full coverage”, raising expectation that the Prime Minister would address the situation.

However, the Prime Minister did not attend the briefing, instead sending out Ramlogan to deliver a statement, which he did on his own in the absence of any Cabinet colleagues at the head-table. Volney was not present.

Ramlogan said the Prime Minister had, at 7 am, decided to have Section 34 repealed. It was unclear what the purpose of the “special” Cabinet meeting was, but Ramlogan said the meeting was called to “ratify” the Prime Minister’s decision. The Attorney General took no questions.

http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,166120.html

8 Responses to “SCANDALOUS”


  • WHAT A MESS
    Back to Parliament: Govt to repeal law ‘favouring’ Ish and Steve
    Twelve days after the proclamation of a contentious provision of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act which allows UNC financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson to escape prosecution, Government is in retreat.

    AG: Point at yourself, Rowley
    According to Ramlogan, the new law was supported by the Opposition in both the Lower House and the Senate as well as the Independent bench in the Upper House.

    Section 34 changed in Senate
    SHORTLY before midnight, in the Senate on November 29, 2011, Minister of Justice Herbert Volney tabled an amendment which inserted the controversial Section 34, into the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act. The section was tabled during the Committee Stage of the bill, just before it was passed unanimously in the House. No Senator present, commented on the section and the effect it would later turn out to have — opening the door for persons accused of corruption in relation to the Piarco International Airport to possibly walk free.

    PM orders repeal of Section 34
    PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday instructed that the House of Representatives sit in special session today from 1.30 pm to repeal Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.

    PM calls special meeting to discuss controversial section
    Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar chaired a special Cabinet meeting yesterday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. to discuss the repealing of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings Act 2011).

    US: We want Ish, Steve
    BUSINESSMEN Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh may escape prosecution in the local courts for corruption and fraud, but they will not escape the long arm of the law in the United States.

    US still wants to extradite 2 men for trial
    The United States Government yesterday confirmed that it was still seeking to extradite businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson to face its country’s courts.

    AG denies Section 34 was a blunder
    Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday denied Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 was a blunder.

    We weren’t in cahoots, says AG
    ATTORNEY General Anand Ramlogan yesterday described as “preposterous” the claim that Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, 2011 was included to help discharge the cases against United National Congress financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who are charged in connection with the Piarco Airport terminal project.

    We listen to the people, says AG
    Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said the Government agreed to repeal the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 because of concerns expressed by the population.

    Ramlogan, Volney must go—Rowley
    Minutes after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley demanded that Parliament be convened to repeal Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011, the Government announced that Parliament would resume today to repeal the controversial section.

    Rowley: Ramlogan, Volney should go
    Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday accused Government of using the Cabinet and the Parliament “to facilitate the escape of alleged criminal wrongdoing on the part of favoured citizens”.

    Lawyer: Repeal won’t mean Ish and Steve will face trial in T&T
    Government’s decision to convene Parliament today to repeal Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 does not mean that businessmen Ishwar Galbaransigh and Steve Ferguson will face trial in the local courts.

    ‘Possible repercussions’
    Senior counsel Dana Seetahal yesterday said repealing the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, 2011 may have repercussions.

    Former Speaker lauds Govt’s quick response
    As Parliament meets in an emergency session today to repeal Clause 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act, former Speaker Barry Sinanan has described as “laudable” Government’s efforts in dealing speedily with the situation.

    Ish, Steve and PI
    WE welcome the news that Parliament’s Lower House is to sit today to debate the status of the law on preliminary inquiries, that legal device to shorten High Court trials, to which changes were proposed by Parliament last November.

    Never-ending Piarco saga

    Express Editorial
    Sep 11, 2012

    The old saying “Justice delayed is justice denied” means that tardiness in delivering justice is itself a form of injustice. But the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act turns this aphorism on its head, making justice delayed a legal basis for undermining the rule of law.

    Businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson have been touted as the immediate—and even intended—beneficiaries of this partly proclaimed law.

    This is because most citizens believe that he who pays the politician calls the tune. And even this partial proclamation by President George Maxwell Richards is itself remarkable in a country where the Children’s Act took more than six years just to get through the Parliament and where a Dangerous Dogs Act was passed but never proclaimed. Those laws were intended to protect the most vulnerable members of society, but were never treated as urgent by politicians on either side of the Upper and Lower Houses.

    But the Administration of Justice Act, which in its present draft is more likely to benefit the rich and powerful, is considered so crucial that it was supported by both Government and Opposition MPs, while particular clauses were viewed as so vital that they had to be proclaimed even before the entire Act. Moreover, those are exactly the clauses which would enable Messrs Galbaransingh and Ferguson to argue that, due to the length of time their cases have been in court, the State’s legal proceedings must now be dropped.

    People generally believe that if something quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s liable to be a duck; and so it appears that the People’s Partnership administration has manipulated the legal process in order to favour two of its party financiers. Politicians, however, like to pretend that their ducks are swans. Politicians also like to say that where there’s smoke, there’s fire —but they only apply this saying to their opponents, while dismissing smoke about their own colleagues as “allegations”.

    But, since what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, the Opposition cannot escape responsibility for its part in this debacle. Despite PNM leader Keith Rowley’s denial that his MPs were caught sleeping in Parliament, the Opposition MPs must either admit that they were outmanoeuvred by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Justice Minister Herbert Volney, or that the PNM favoured this legislation for its own reasons. And, given that certain PNM financiers have their own legal challenges, what could such reasons be, save an agreement that “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”?

    The Act is supposed to go back to the Parliament today for amendment. Hopefully, this stitch will be in time to save us from further embarrassment.

    http://www.trinidadexpress.com/commentaries/Never-ending_Piarco_saga-169410976.html

  • The government must be crazy. If cases continue to take years to be resolved then criminals will go free. If the opposition was doing its jonb it would mandate that all cases have a short period to be disposed. Cases take too long in Trinbago to be resolved. That is the scandal.

  • Th Government, Opposition and the legal fraternity all know that repealing this law does not prevent a judge, using existing laws,from throwing these charges out of court, because of the lengthy delay.

  • Appearances are very significant in political affairs. It appears that the AG and the Minister of Justice both seem to have acted in a manner in which their motives are definitely questionable. The PM (if she is not involved herself) should consider removing these two individuals.It is ironic that the two major financiers could be responsible for bringing down this government.

  • Letter to the Editor

    I am a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. I love this place and I love all of its peoples.
    But what the PP Government has attempted has broken the camels back for me. I always had my doubts about them; but now I am certain.
    In my mind I have now taken back my franchise and those ‘people’ no longer represent me.
    They are not my government.
    They have demonstrated total disregard for the people of this country and to continue with them is to say we agree to the destruction of our society – sweet Trinidad. This precedent, to me, means that I could actually get up in the morning and find that a criminal – gunman, rapist, drug pusher, goat and cow lover and pedophile could come into my home, violate my rights and be free under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago that changes on a daily basis.
    That is how serious this is.
    “THEY MUST GO”!
    But let me warn the Government, now that you have attempted to make a fool of the US Attorney General and to fool the people of Trinidad and Tobago; you are not yet aware that you have assassinated your political career and firmly hastened the destruction of the Government but the people of Trinidad and Tobago will finish it.
    Just say the word; whoever, wherever, whenever, however and I will be there to protest and support.

  • Why does it seem like this Gov’t cannot do anything RIGHT!

  • Ten years and $100 million plus spent on this circus. The tax payers are the clowns, the government the monkey, and the financiers the jokers. Perhaps this would continue for another 10 years and another $100 million spent, in the end my bet is on the jokers. They are the ones who would win…in the end. The clowns will cause an uproar and the monkies wil chatter to no end.

  • Linda Edwards, Class of 1967

    The midnight insertion of an additional clause to the bill, now that we see what it was intended to do, reeks of the changes to the film about Islam that is now causing rioting all over the Muslim world. The actors in the film said that the title was changed, and their dialogue dubbed with other words specifically designed to put Islam in a bad light.

    Elaine, my blessed mother, used to say that what is done in the dark, always comes to light, with bad consequences. Deception, either in a controversial movie that leads to the death of four Americans in Libya, or in a bill designed to sneak some crooks past the justice system of Trinidad and Tobago, needs to be condemned in the loudest voices.

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