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CJ: I won't be bullied

By Gail Alexander

As a showdown shaped up between the executive and judicial arms of the State, Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma has said he will not be bullied or pressured into resigning, as he claims that the Prime Minister and Attorney General have been trying to force him to do.

Sharma added yesterday: "I stand firm and resolute in defence of the independence of the judiciary and will continue to do so.

"I refuse to be hounded out of office or bullied by the executive into resigning, when there is absolutely no justification for doing so."

Sharma fired a broadside against Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls and accused Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Attorney General John Jeremie of pressuring him to resign.

Sharma added: "I stand firm and resolute in defence of the independence of the judiciary and will continue to do so.

"I refuse to be hounded out of office or bullied by the executive into resigning, when there is absolutely no justification for doing so."

This, following allegations made to Manning by Chief Magistrate Mc Nicolls against CJ Sharma, and counter-allegations against Mc Nicolls made by Sharma to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.

Up to 6 pm yesterday, Manning—who attended the T&T/Peru football match—had not denied reports that he had issued an ultimatum to Sharma to resign or be charged.

Asked about the issue at the match last night, Manning said: "No comment."

He is expected to speak today on the issue, following the weekly Cabinet meeting, a source said.

The situation forced Manning to entirely cancel his planned trip to Spain and Austria for conferences. Foreign Affairs Minister Knowlson Gift is filling in for him.

Manning had delayed the trip for 24 hours on Tuesday, after meeting with Sharma—a day after Sharma wrote the JLSC on Monday, complaining about alleged gross misconduct by McNicolls (See letter on Page 8).

Yesterday, Manning held "long discussions" with the President, according to a Whitehall statement, issued at mid-morning after the meeting (See box below).

It stated: "Following the discussions, Prime Minister Manning decided that it would be inappropriate for him to leave T&T at this time and therefore has cancelled his mission to Spain and Austria."

CJ Sharma, meeting with his legal advisers yesterday, issued an eight-page statement in which he said the rule of law in T&T was under threat and the country's democratic system was also in crisis. (See Sharma's statement on Pages 12 & 13.)

Saying the country was entitled to nothing less than full transparency, Sharma said President Richards spoke with him on Monday, informing him that the Prime Minister had told him (Richards) that Sharma had sought to interfere in the Basdeo Panday integrity case and the President "wanted to have a chat to discuss the matter."

Sharma said Richards confirmed that the Prime Minister had said a report had been made by Mc Nicolls on the allegation.

Sharma said he told Richards "in the clearest possible terms, that any such report from the Chief Magistrate could only be false." Sharma then lodged a complaint with the JLSC.

Sharma stated that Mc Nicolls had come to him on March 28, in an unsolicited visit, and expressed certain views on the Panday case, including that:

• Mc Nicolls was favourably impressed with the testimony of defence witness Lawrence Duprey.

• Mc Nicolls felt it was unfair for the State to have prosecuted Panday, when there was a number of other high officials who had acted in flagrant disregard of the Integrity Commission's requirements and no action was taken against them.

• That it was to Mc Nicolls' knowledge, since his mother was an East Indian, that in Hindu families the wives were traditionally entrusted with control of the family's financial affairs.

Sharma said Mc Nicolls did not seek his advice on any of those matters and he volunteered none.

CJ Sharma also said that Manning, after an April 5 conference, had told Justice Ulric Cross that "the Chief Justice must go" and he (the CJ) had been attempting to influence the adjudication in the Panday case.

Sharma said Jeremie told him on Monday that the state had two statements containing evidence that he had interfered with the administration of justice by trying to influence the outcome of the Panday case.

Sharma said Jeremie told him: "This time 'they' would not be going the route of Section 137 of the Constitution, implying it was 'their' intention to initiate criminal prosecution against me," Sharma added.

"He (AG) claimed the evidence against me was explosive. The meeting lasted 25-30 minutes and the greater part of this time was spent by his attempting to pressure me into resignation. He said I should resign rather than suffer the disgrace and embarrassment of a criminal prosecution."

Sharma said Manning met with him Tuesday, saying he was giving Sharma the option of resigning "but if I did not do so he would hand the Chief Magistrate's report to the police and I would face criminal prosecution," Sharma said.

"He (Manning) said on this occasion he would not make the mistake again of proceeding under the Constitution to effect my removal from office," Sharma added.

Sharma said Manning told him if he agreed to resign he would allow him to remain in office until the end of the current term.

Sharma said Manning refused to give him a copy of Mc Nicolls' letter for his lawyers to examine and respond. He said he told Manning the allegations were false.

However, the Prime Minister said Sharma had until his return from his proposed trip to Europe to decide.

Sharma added: "I hope and pray the national community will not stand idly by and allow T&T's democracy to be threatened."

Yesterday Attorney General Jeremie issued a statement, explaining the circumstances in which he was contacted by Mc Nichols in connection with a Clico subsidiary cheque Mc Nicolls had received (see story on Page 5).

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar called for an independent public Commission of Enquiry into the allegations against Mc Nicolls, Sharma, the PM, the AG and the DPP—as well as on concerns about the Panday case as a result of these allegations. She said the ruling in Panday's case is now tainted.

Chief Magistrate Mc Nicolls was in the Tobago courts and unavailable for comment.

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

Messages In This Thread

CJ: I won't be bullied
CJ's letter to JLSC
PM tells Parliament *LINK*
AG cautions legal bodies and media
Traps set for Chief Justice, Chief Magistrate
PM wants control of judiciary-Ramesh
Prez-PM rift widens
DPP warns media: Watch reports on CJ issue
Cops seize papers from CJ's office
Trinidad and Tobago News

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