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AG can’t wash hands of Section 34

By Andre Bagoo Thursday, May 22 2014

ATTORNEY General Anand Ramlogan cannot avoid holding ultimate responsibility for the Section 34 fiasco given his role as overall legal adviser to Cabinet and should be fired, David Abdulah, the political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) — a former coalition partner — said yesterday.

In a media statement issued one day after sacked Justice Minister Herbert Volney publicly stated he was solely responsible for the insertion of a clause in a bill which effectively imposed a time- limit on ongoing criminal proceedings involving persons on charges of State fraud and corruption, the MSJ stated Volney’s own about-turn on the issue does not address the ultimate responsibility of the Attorney General.

The MSJ said the Attorney General remained responsible for advising Cabinet on the early proclamation of the specific section, the section’s insertion as well as simultaneous court proceedings which had implications for any local proceedings of persons on charges of corruption.

“The MSJ states categorically that the Attorney General cannot wash his hands of the Section 34 issue,” Abdulah said. “As far as we are concerned the statement by former Justice Minister Herbert Volney was simply about a settlement between Mr Volney and Mr Ramlogan with respect to a private civil action of defamation. It does not address the issue of the Attorney General’s responsibility as the legal adviser to the Cabinet.”

Abdulah continued, “As far as the MSJ is concerned, nothing has been said by either Mr Volney or Mr Ramlogan to change our position. Mr Volney, as line Minister, was responsible for the Bill being brought to Parliament, for the amendments to Section 34; the deficient Schedule 6; and the Note to Cabinet to have Section 34 selectively proclaimed.”

“In this specific instance, it is well known that the selective and surreptitious proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings)Act of 2011 had the effect of giving certain persons....a virtual get out of jail card,” Abdulah said.

However, “the Attorney General by deciding not to appeal Justice (Ronnie) Boodoosingh’s judgment knowing full well...the implications of that and Section 34 would be a get out of jail card for... and subsequently not seeking to plug the loophole by amending Schedule 6 and/or advising the Cabinet not to have Section 34 proclaimed, is culpable of at minimum dereliction of duty and should be removed from the Cabinet.”

Abdulah outlined the time-line of the events involving passage of Section 34 and the Act as well as the overlapping court proceedings which concerned whether certain persons should face trial locally or be extradited.

“Within the same time-frame as the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill, 2011, was being debated on three occasions in the Parliament, and in which debates the Attorney General was present and participated, the AG was also actively engaged in the consideration of the appeal of Justice Boodoosingh’s judgment,” the MSJ leader said. Abdulah said the Attorney General had a constitutional role.

Abdulah said, “The fact that the AG decided not to appeal whilst being fully aware of the provisions of Section 34 and the deficient Schedule 6 suggests that either he demonstrated total dereliction of duty or worse. Either way, the AG is culpable for this very serious crisis.” The MSJ leader also said the Attorney General could have pursued other avenues.

“Assuming that the AG decided not to appeal, there were still other avenues open to the AG to guarantee a trial. He could have gone to Parliament to amend either Section 34 or Schedule 6 before it was proclaimed. The AG had all of eight months so to do but took no action in this regard,” Abdulah said.

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