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Manning vows to bring wrong-doers to justice

By Ria Taitt Newsday

A tough-talking Prime Minister Patrick Manning vowed yesterday that his Government will bring wrong-doers to justice, "be they factory workers, lawyers, company directors or politicians".

Manning was delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of the OAS Fourth Meeting of Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General of the Americas (REMJA) at the Hilton last evening.

Attending the function were former Attorneys General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, Karl Hudson Phillip and Keith Sobion as well as Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide, members of the Cabinet, members of the Judiciary and diplomatic personnel.

Manning said a common objective of member states of REMJA should be the proper punishment of corrupt officials "who rob our countries of a respectable international reputation and our citizens, in particular our children, of their rightful inheritance". He added that his Government had embarked on an exercise designed to remove the scourge of corruption from this society, and to bring wrong doers to justice.

Manning stated that the challenge of the three-day meeting in Port-of-Spain is to "apply and enforce the law in the respective countries, and to conduct a fruitful exchange of ideas on strengthening international cooperation in the fight against corruption and the repatriation of illicit funds".

He pointed to the Inter-American Convention against corruption which called for member states to extend to each other the broadest possible assistance in fighting the crime of corruption, "which means greater co-ordination and co-operation to ensure that the criminals cannot act with impunity".

He recommended that the Ministers and AGs seek to strengthen co-operation in areas such as mutual legal assistance, extradition, exchange of information, the sharing of experiences through staff training, and the co-ordination of judicial, administrative and other measures to prevent criminals from acting with impunity. "Legal and judicial co-operation should include prompt and effective measures for the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of perpetrators," the Prime Minister stated.

Manning boasted to his international audience that the penal system of Trinidad and Tobago "has already embraced the virtues of alternatives to imprisonment with the introduction of Community Service Orders and Community Mediation".

He went further saying that in 1997 and 1998, this country was "one of the first countries in the Caribbean to introduce, by legislation, a system for Community Service Orders and Community Mediation in cases of certain non-serious offenders". All these measures of which Manning spoke so approvingly were initiated by Ramesh Maharaj during his tenure as Attorney General.

Noting that the meeting will be addressing international cooperation in fighting terrorism and transnational organised crime, Manning said it was imperative for the participants to remember that the struggle against terrorism and crime must be conducted on several fronts at the same time. He said they must not only think of cooperation in taking corrective measures to investigate, apprehend, prosecute and punish, "we have a larger responsibility to embark on programmes to prevent crime".

Before the meeting Attorney General Glenda Morean met with US Attorney General John Ashcroft and held discussions on the issue of deportees. Morean expressed her concerns that persons are just deported without warning or preparation. Today Manning meets Ashcroft at Whitehall.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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