The Court of Appeal will on Wednesday next week deliver a ruling in a case that could once again bring under the microscope government’s legislation to deal with criminal activities in Trinidad and Tobago.
According to CMC News, Businessmen Steve Fergusson, Ameer Edoo and three companies have challenged the decision of the Parliament to repeal Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.
Soon after the Section 34 was proclaimed, Ferguson and Edoo along with several other men and companies filed applications at the High Court to have several fraud-related charges against them dismissed.
The appellants are contending the repeal of the section had breached separation of power principles and that of legitimate expectation.
Last October, the three-member Court of Appeal reserved its ruling following days of lengthy submissions by attorneys for both the appellants and the State.
In October, 2012, Parliament repealed Section 34 of the Act that had the effect of allowing people whose trial has not started after a 10-year period to walk free and a verdict of not guilty entered against their names.
Critics said the section was aimed at supporting Ferguson and businessman Ish Galbaransingh who have been described as financiers of the ruling United National Congress (UNC), the biggest partner in the four-member coalition People’s Partnership government. The two are facing fraud and laundering charges relating to the re-development of the Piarco International Airport in 2001. They are also wanted in the United States on a number of related charges.
Their attorneys had petitioned the local court to have the charges against them dismissed citing Section 34 of the Act.
Prime Minister Persad Bissessar has dismissed her Justice Minister, Hebert Volney, a former High Court judge, on the grounds that he misled Cabinet into believing that the Chief Justice Ivor Archie and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Roger Gaspard, had supported the idea of the early proclamation of Section 34.
Last May opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald called for international agencies to probe the premature proclamation of the controversial Section 34. In her contribution to the debate on the Opposition’s motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister and the Government, in the Lower House, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, McDonald said Section 34 is an issue that will not go away; answers must be given, and the time has come for all right citizens to demand this probe.
The Express Newspaper had quoted McDonald as saying; “We want assistance from the FBI, we want assistance from Scotland Yard, Mr Speaker this is too serious and this has gone too far, Section 34 has gone too far. I expect that the Government will put up a fight, I expect them to say this is hocus pocus information but up to now, the AG has spoken but the AG has not denied writing any of those e-mails.”
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, in piloting the motion, revealed a string of Section 34 conspiracy e-mails from e-mail addresses that allegedly belong to the Prime Minister, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Local Government Minister Suruj Rambachan and the Prime Minister’s National Security adviser, Gary Griffith.
The AG in response said the e-mail address email@example.com was not his.
However, speaking on the heels of the AG, McDonald pointed out that another e-mail address was also used—firstname.lastname@example.org McDonald said most people, including herself, have two e-mail addresses.
Referring to e-mail exchanges with respect to the DPP, McDonald said these actions violated the doctrines of the separation of the powers which the democracy of the country was built on.
“What these people, PM and AG whoever they are, what they have done is to collaborate to undermine the judiciary by bringing the Chief Justice into their plan to remove the DPP and to get someone who is more amenable to their plans,” she said.