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AG: Nelson did not give PNM consent to use his name

By Andre Bagoo Sunday, February 3 2013

ATTORNEY General Anand Ramlogan yesterday said Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Judge Rolston Nelson did not give the Opposition PNM consent or permission for his name to be put forward as a candidate for the post of President.

He accused the PNM of acting in bad faith over the issue of an appointment.

“It shows the PNM is acting in bad faith and they did not intend to have genuine dialogue. They rushed to put this out there,” he said.

Ramlogan said he contacted Nelson yesterday on the issue, in the wake of the PNM proposing the sitting judge as a candidate.

“I have spoken to the Honourable Mr Justice Rolston Nelson and he has confirmed that he did not at any time, give the Opposition PNM consent or permission for his name to be proposed as the PNM’s nominee for the Presidency,” Ramlogan said. “The learned judge was in fact taken by surprise by this sudden announcement by the PNM which was done without any prior consultation with him far less his knowledge, consent and permission.”

The Attorney General continued, “It is clear that the PNM has done this in a hasty bid to steal a political march on the Government on this important issue of the election of a new head of state. This is the worst form of political gamesmanship and one-upmanship.”

Ramlogan said while, in his view, there was nothing barring a sitting judge from being put forward as a nominee, the process must be sensitively handled so as not to compromise the judicial officer. He said at the very least the candidate must be consulted before his name is put forward. He noted that when the PNM, in 1997, put forward a sitting Justice of Appeal as a candidate, Justice Anthony Lucky, it was clear that Lucky was consulted beforehand.

“I see no objection to a sitting judge being nominated per se but it should be done properly with his knowledge and consent and approval,” the Attorney General said.

Ramlogan continued, “The PNM has therefore placed Justice Nelson in a most awkward and embarrassing position by releasing his name as the party’s nominee without his knowledge and permission. They have put an unfortunate political complexion in the mind of the public on a man who enjoys a distinguished record as an eminent jurist whose life has been characterised by sensitive, political neutrality and a reticence consistent with the high judicial office that he holds.”

The Senator said the process of selection of a candidate should be confidential and stated this was what was envisioned in the Constitution. “The PNM, in its bid for political glory by association with the distinguished judge, has tainted and compromised a nominee that would otherwise be an excellent candidate for the office of President,” Ramlogan said. “The Honourable Prime Minister met with the Opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald recently and no names were put forward by the PNM. It is therefore passing strange that subsequent to such a face-to-face meeting Justice Nelson’s name could be pulled like a rabbit out of a hat for the sake of political convenience.”

The Attorney General further stated the President of the CCJ, Sir Denis Byron, was not informed of the Opposition’s putting forward the name of Justice Nelson.

“I have also spoken to Sir Denis Byron the President of the CCJ and he indicated that he was not aware of this significant development,” he said. “And he would most likely have been informed by the learned judge if he was going to allow his name to be put forward by the Opposition as a nominee for presidential office.”

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley did not respond to messages of calls from Sunday Newsday yesterday.

The Office of the Prime Minister yesterday issued a press release stating Opposition chief Whip Marlene McDonald only informed the Prime Minister of the Opposition’s recommendation by way of letter on Friday, after the Prime Minister had on Thursday made a public statement in which she said Mc Donald had assured she would get back to her with the name of a candidate after a meeting which took place earlier last week.

“As already indicated by the Prime Minister, a nomination will be announced on Monday February 4, 2013. However, after receiving the Opposition’s recommendation for President this afternoon Friday January 31, Prime Minister has invited the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley, MP, to a meeting at the earliest convenience,” the release stated.

“Following comments by the Honourable Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the Post-Cabinet Briefing on Thursday January 31, 2013, concerning elections for the fifth President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Representatives, Ms Marlene Mc Donald, MP, has today written to recommend the Honourable Justice Rolston Nelson SC, of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

The Prime Minister wishes to advise that diligent and due consideration will be given to the recommendation.”

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