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Govt must think, then talk!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Honourable Prime Minister Dr Keith Christopher Rowley had to revisit his statements many times because they caused public outrage. Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has had to make a pathetic comeback because according to him, the rest of the country interpreted him wrongly or the media reported conveniently. As for Minister Stuart Young, he has never seen it fit to retract any of his blunders.

Front page of Wednesday, April 18, 2018’s edition of the Daily Express, appropriately painted a picture which spoke more than a thousand words. One headline said, “Think, then talk,” arising from a statement issued by Her Excellency Madam Justice Paula-Mae Weekes in relation to the recent High Court ruling on this country’s buggery laws. The other headline stated, “FARIS FAILS–Judge throws out $170m HDC land corruption case,” a civil suit brought by the Government against Jearlean John et al.

What strikes in these headlines is that the Government is not thinking things through before acting. The case which was brought against former Housing Development Corporation (HDC) managing director and others will result in substantial losses to taxpayers. In addition to the Government having to pay fees to its own lawyers, it now has to pay to the other parties’ attorneys as well.

The Trinidad Guardian (19/04/18) quotes Al-Rawi as saying, “The costs are not astronomical. It is a matter of small money. It is certainly not $5 million. That is outlandish and outrageous.” What exactly is “small money” Mr Attorney General? Are the costs to be paid out by the State going to be less than $100,000 or $10,000? What exactly is this “small money?” Are these monies being paid out of your own pocket?

AG Al-Rawi has no right or moral authority to make statements like “small monies.” It is being paid by the Government for a procedural flop on the Government’s side. No matter how the Attorney General attempts to dress it up, or mess it up, in this case, these “monies” ought not to have arisen in the first place! Now, tax payers must pay the price for a failed court proceeding.

What is totally unacceptable in all of this is when the AG was asked whether he had made a report over the HDC issues to the Integrity Commission(IC) and that the IC had dismissed these issues, “Al-Rawi refused to say yes or no, as he said Minister in the Office of the AG Stuart Young was managing the case.”(See Guardian 19/04/18).

All this brings into focus the question over who really is the Attorney General? Our Republican Constitution recognises only one Attorney General. How can the appointed AG say he does not know when it comes to such an important question? Is it true then, that Minister Young is the de facto Minister of Everything?

The Express of Thursday, April 19, in its Editorial titled “FOCUS, MR AG,” was critical of Attorney General Faris al-Rawi in his response to the Jearlean John legal fiasco. It wrote: “His attempt to focus the media’s attention on the political interests of Ms John and her lawyer as senior members of the Opposition United National Congress overlooked his own political interest as a senior member of the ruling party, the People’s National Movement. The public is not blind to the political interests at stake on both sides.”

What is the status of the “interpretation” proceedings brought in relation to the unquantifiable number of cases before the Magistrates Court which were part heard before the former Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers Caesar? I wrote previously on this case and why I felt it was inappropriate. I do not wish to rehash my view, but, how has this case progressed? Is it at risk of being thrown out by the court whether for procedural reasons or otherwise? Or are tax-payers going to have to pay “small monies” yet again because the Government failed to think before it acted?

The Government and its ministers must understand that we can ill-afford wastage of tax-payers’ dollars. Especially, when according to these said ministers, we are in a financial drought. Already, the AG has moved for an interpretation of judges’ purported entitlement to a sabbatical. Should the Government have moved these proceedings? I leave it up to the lawyers to argue the pros and cons of such proceedings. I simply raise it in terms of how much tax-payers’ monies are we expending on these matters and whether we should spend in this manner, at this time!


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