PM orders repeal of Section 34
By CLINT CHAN TACK Wednesday, September 12 2012
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Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar...
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.
Attorney General (AG) Anand Ramlogan made this disclosure in a statement to reporters at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s last night, while the Cabinet was in a special meeting on this issue.
Section 34 of the Act has a bearing to a petition filed in the Supreme Court by former UNC financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson to dismiss ten-year-old cases against them.
Accompanied only by Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed, as the rest of the Cabinet including Persad-Bissessar, continued their meeting across the hallway, Ramlogan told reporters: “The Cabinet has met today and we have ratified a decision taken by the Honourable Prime Minister earlier this morning at around 7 am. That decision was to convene the Parliament tomorrow (today) and repeal Section 34, which has been the subject of so much healthy and lively debate and discussion in the past couple days.”
Stating this decision was communicated at 8.30 am by Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal to Opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald, “through a conversation” Moonilal had with McDonald, Ramlogan said Government noted the concerns and divergent views expressed about the controversial Section 34 of the Act.
“As with all laws, there is bound to be a variety of legal opinion and interpretation. In light of the different views, we have decided as a government that listens to the people, to err on the side of caution to repeal this section in its entirety,” he declared.
Ramlogan said Government was repealing Section 34, “to avoid any doubt whatsoever as to the true intention and purpose of the legislation which was always intended at fixing the logjam in the Magistracy.” He said Government wanted to make it clear the “bold and decisive manner” in which Persad-Bissessar made this decision at 7 am yesterday, “underscores the policy of this administration which is to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of all crimes in a society where respect for the rule of law is paramount.”
Ramlogan insisted: “No one is above the law. We are all subject to the law and we are all equal before the law.” Identifying the Indictable Proceedings Act 2011, as one of several measures introduced by the People’s Partnership, “to expedite and quicken the pace of justice in our country”, Ramlogan said this was a “hallmark” piece of legislation, which sought to abolish preliminary inquiries, “to ensure that accused persons can stand trial before a judge and jury in a more expeditious time frame.”
Observing that the Judiciary’s annual report revealed there are “thousands of matters clogging the system in the magistrates’ court and this bottleneck will stultify the criminal justice system if bold measures are not taken to deal with it”, the AG stated: “A modern and efficient system of criminal justice is a most effective weapon in the fight against crime and that is why this Act which was designed specifically to dynamite the logjam which exists in the magistracy, that is crippling the criminal justice system, was given high priority by this administration.”
Before Ramlogan spoke, Mohammed said: “Cabinet has authorised the following statement which will be made by the AG. There will be no questions at the end of this statement.” After Ramlogan concluded his statement, Mohammed promised reporters “more details” would be provided when the House sits today.