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‘PM made a blunder’

By CAROL MATROO Friday, May 2 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Time for mourning: Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and his wife Nalini after the ecumenical service for former President and Prime Minister Arthur NR ...
Time for mourning: Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and his wife Nalini after the ecumenical service for former President and Prime Minister Arthur NR ...

PNM Senator Faris Al-Rawi yesterday said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has made a huge blunder in believing Attorney General Anand Ramlogan could conduct an investigation regarding concerns raised by former Solicitor General Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell involving lawyers engaged in prison litigation.

“It is very rare in life that we get an immediate second chance to do the right thing. I think that the Prime Minister (PM) crashed and burned badly in suggesting that the Attorney General (AG), aided by the Minister of Justice (Emmanuel George) and other people in the Government could possibly conduct a review into himself and into his office into the prison’s aspect,” Al-Rawi told reporters after the ecumenical service held for former prime minister Arthur NR Robinson at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port-of-Spain.

Donaldson-Honeywell wrote the PM on August 30, 2013, asking her to investigate circumstances that may amount inter alia to breaches of professional ethics by the attorneys involved and have the effect of perverting the course of justice in litigation against the State.

She referred to the retaining of lawyers by the AG who defended the State in civil law claims while going against the State in prison litigation.

Persad-Bissessar has since mandated the AG to revisit the allegations. The AG was called on to meet with acting SG Carol Hernandez, Commissioner of Prisons Conrad Barrow, Inspector of Prisons Daniel Khan, George and Chief State Solicitor Christophe Grant.

However, this did not sit well with Al-Rawi who said to make an error of that kind begged the question as to competence.

Al-Rawi said it was a sad day for the Government if they could not understand the need for transparency in this kind of equation since it could easily have been better managed by the AG stepping aside saying he had a conflict of interest.

Speaking to the media earlier, when told many thought that this was a case of himself investigating himself, and if he thought that he could handle the matter impartially, Ramlogan said the matter would be based on the fundamental standing and structure of the ministry.

“There is no allegation against myself. The allegation concerns the conduct and litigation by two independent departments–the Solicitor General’s department and external litigators,” he said.

However, Al-Rawi said the AG has been looking for one instance that could stand on the record by virtue of High Court Master Patricia Sobion-Awai’s decision in the Jamal Sambury case.

“In the Sambury case she specifically ends her judgment by saying an investigation is required into this issue. That issue is one case on the record. So the AG is really playing smart with a whole lot of foolishness to make a statement like that,” he said. Al-Rawi said there was an obvious conflict of interest for the AG, adding that Ramlogan “has got to have more sense than that.”

Saying the day was one of mourning, Ramlogan said he would deal with the matter of the investigation in due course. The AG said he would meet with the relevant stakeholders whenever it was practicable.

“Once we get past today I will be contacting the association, the Inspector of Prisons with my colleague the Minister of Justice. We will endeavour to set up a meeting hopefully tomorrow (today), but early next week is more likely,” he said.

Ramlogan noted there was an acting SG appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission who as an independent office holder would conduct any inquiries that may be appropriate and relevant.

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