At 2:20 pm on Tuesday afternoon the Parliament and the people of Trinidad and Tobago witnessed Attorney General Faris al Rawi do what no other Attorney General in the history of our country has ever done. This Rowley appointed Attorney General piloted the Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial by Judge Alone) Bill 2017 whereby he asked the Senate to amend and pass laws that were struck down by the High Court as unconstitutional and void.
The Bill piloted by the Attorney General sought parliamentary approval to amend certain sections of the Offenses Against the Persons Act Chapter 11:08. More particularly the Bill sought to amend section 4A6 and 4A7 of the Act. The amendments that were proposed by the Bill as piloted by the Attorney General were as follows: –
(The parts of the legislation that is underlined and bold are what is proposed to be inserted by the Attorney General by the Bill and the parts struck through are what is proposed to be deleted by the Bill).
4A (6) Where on a trial for murder—
(a) evidence is given that the accused was at the time of the alleged offence suffering from such abnormality of mind as is specified in subsection (1); and
(b) the accused is convicted of manslaughter, the Court shall require the jury or judge to declare whether the accused was so convicted by them or him on the ground of such abnormality of mind and, if the jury or judge declare that the conviction was on that
ground, the Court may, instead of passing such sentence as is provided by law for that offence, direct the finding of the jury to be recorded, require the jury or the Judge as the case may be, to declare whether the accused was so convicted by them or by him on the ground of such abnormality of mind and, if the jury declare or the Judge declares, that the conviction was on that ground, the Court may instead of passing such sentence as is provided by law for that offence, direct the finding of the jury or the Judge to be recorded and thereupon the Court may order such person to be detained in safe custody, in such place and manner as the Court thinks fit until the President’s pleasure is known.
4A (7) The Court shall as soon as practicable, report the finding of the jury or the Judge, as the case may be, and the detention of the person to the President who shall order the person to be dealt with as a mentally ill person in accordance with the laws governing the care and treatment of such persons or in any other manner he may think necessary.
These were the only amendments that were proposed by the Bill to sections 4A (6) and (7) of the Offences Against the Persons Act.
Shockingly, the Attorney General was not aware that certain parts of sub-section 6 were declared unconstitutional by the High Court and sub-section 7 was struck down in its entirety by the High Court. How an Attorney General could commit such a travesty on the Parliament of this country is inexplicable. This is the person who was appointed by Dr. Rowley to be constitutionally responsible for the administration of legal affairs in Trinidad and Tobago and legal proceedings for and against the State. This is the person that Dr. Rowley appointed to be responsible for advising the Cabinet of our country. In any other democratic society based upon the rule of law, where there exists a written constitution and a responsible government led by a responsible Prime Minister the resignation of the Attorney General would have been demanded. That is demanding too much from the PNM! Dr. Rowley has demonstrated that as a leader he cannot follow in the footsteps of Kamla Persad-Bissessar and put country before party and put the pubic interest before the interest of the super elite puppet masters. That is why he dear not touch Faris al Rawi no matter how much he trips over himself at the expense of the public interest.
On the 6th July 2009, the Honourable Mr. Justice Smith in the matter of C.V. 2007-04514 Evelyn v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago said, in relation to the Offences Against the Persons Act 11:08,
“Unlike the case with section 4A(6), the whole of section 4A(7) is invalid. The raison d’etre of section 4A(7) is to provide for the manner and length of the detention of persons like the Claimant. An amendment would not cure this defective provision. I therefore declare section 4A(7) to be invalid.
The Court went on to declare that section 4A(6) was unconstitutional and made the following order,
“Section 4A(6) of the Offences against the Person Act Chapter 11:08 be modified by deleting the words “until the President’s pleasure is known” and substituting therefor the words” until the Court’s pleasure is known”.
That was in 2009!
On the 22nd April 2010 Mr. Justice Kokaram was called upon to again determine the constitutionality of the Offences Against the Persons Act Chapter 11:08. Justice Kokaram held at paragraph 48,
“On the other hand, however section 4A (7) OAP is wholly unnecessary and is in conflict with the constitutional principles discussed. This section purports in its entirety to deal with the manner and the length of the Claimant’s detention. It usurps the judicial function of sentencing and is unconstitutional. There is no useful purpose to be served in modifying this section and it is struck down altogether”.
The rationale and principles for the striking down of this legislation was decided and set out by the House of Lords since 1997 and by the European Court of Human Rights in V v The United Kingdom (1999) 30 EHRR 121, since 1999. This rationale was again reaffirmed by the Privy Council in 1999 in Browne v The Attorney General (1999) 54 WIR 213, an appeal from Belize. It was again reaffirmed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 2004 in Griffith v R (2005) 65 WIR 50, an appeal from Barbados and most importantly it was again reaffirmed by the Privy Council in Seepersad and Panchoo v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (2012) 80 WIR 463.
How could the Attorney General in those circumstances not know what the law was as declared since 1999, that is 18 years ago? How could Faris al Rawi be the guardian of the public interest and not even know what is the interest that he is there to protect? This is the man that is constitutionally vested with the administration of justice in our country and yet still he does not know the law! He brings to Parliament laws struck down by the Court and asks the Parliament to approve their amendment, and the amendments have nothing to do with curing their unconstitutionality. Faris al Rawi, the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago has again demonstrated his inability to hold the office that was gifted to him by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley. He has demonstrated again his vast incompetence and legal ineptitude and not for the first time.
It has now become as feature of parliamentary debates under this Rowley appointed Attorney General that with each piece of legislation that he proposes a constitutional crisis looms. When he piloted the SSA legislation he pronounced that the citizens of this country had no right to privacy. When he piloted the Marriage Bill he withdrew the certificate for a three-fifths majority. When the introduced the Indictable Offences (Pre-Trial Procedure) Bill 2017 he removed the judicial safeguard from the pre-trial process. He has now introduced legislation to intrude on the right to trial by jury by way of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial by Judge Alone) Bill 2017 and now he has made the gravest of his missteps by bringing to Parliament legislation declared to be unconstitutional and struck down by the High Court.
What is even more disturbing is that when his blunder was pointed out to him he sought to blame the former administration for not printing the laws accurately. At no time did he demonstrate the maturity to admit that he got it wrong. At no time was he responsible enough to propose that he correct his error and in the Parliament, there were those who thought it their duty to support this gaping illegality. His arrogance coupled with his incompetence is a ticking time bomb for our country and for our democracy. With each passing day of governance under this Rowley led administration our democracy is more at risk; our Constitution is being dismantled and all that our forefathers fought for that has bound us together as one people for the past 55 years is incrementally being taken away from us. It is akin to death by a thousand cuts.
The Opposition will continue to point out the inability in Dr. Rowley and his government to lead our country. The Opposition will continue to fight this cancerous dictatorship that has spread through out our country since September 7th 2015. As an Opposition, we cannot do it alone. The Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial by Judge Alone) Bill 2017 provides each citizen that cares for the well being of our country and our future to call upon all parliamentarians to vote against the unlawful actions of the Attorney General in brining to the Parliament legislation that has been struck down by the High Court. We all deserve better and we must demand that from those vested with the power to govern our country, and we must do so now.
Faris al Rawi should apologize to his colleagues for advising them to approve legislation to place before Parliament that was struck down by the High Court. He should as Attorney General apologize to the Parliament for piloting legislation that has been struck down by the High Court. He should apologize to the nation for betraying the trust vested in him as guardian of the public interest by introducing legislation to Parliament that has been struck down by the High Court and after having apologized he should do the decent and Honorable thing and tender his resignation to the Prime Minister. Should the Attorney General not do so Dr. Rowley must act! We will accept nothing less!
Senator Gerald Ramdeen
St. Michaels Law
Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
No. 7 Cornelio Street, Woodbrook