ATTORNEY General Anand Ramlogan has slammed Independent Liberal Party (ILP) interim leader Jack Warner for “tarnishing” the name and character of expelled ILP councillor Faaiq Mohammed with his unsubstantiated bribery allegations as “highly reckless and irresponsible”.
Warner has accused Mohammed of receiving a $2.5 million bribe from the United National Congress (UNC) to support the party during the election of mayor and deputy at the deadlocked Chaguanas Borough Corporation (CBC), but he has denied the allegation.
The deadlock was broken yesterday when the council met a second time and elected UNC’s Gopaul Boodhan and Debideen Manick mayor and deputy mayor. Ramlogan spoke on the issue after delivering the feature address at the American Caribbean Law Initiative Caribbean Law Clinic at the Office of the Attorney General, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.
“Mr Warner seems to be making a habit of making such scandalous and outrageous allegations. If you have evidence to support the making of such an allegation it is a most serious matter to suggest that an elected official would have compromised his integrity by accepting a bribe of $2.5 million from a political party, especially one that is in Government,” he said. He noted, Warner claimed to have “the deeds” but “then to say ‘well you know, not tonight, not today, not tomorrow”’.
“When you make allegations of this kind which impact on a person’s reputation and character, a young man, 25 years of age, studying in university, you have decided to tarnish this young man’s career and character for the rest of his life. And I think it is highly reckless and irresponsible to make those allegations without producing the evidence to substantiate those allegations,” he said.
On Wednesday, Mohammed supported the UNC in a vote for presiding officer at a sitting of the CBC, prompting the Warner-led ILP to expel him. Mohammed has said he sided with the UNC because 600 constituents signed a petition objecting to the appointment of former councillor Falisha Isahak as an ILP alderman. The ILP has called for a bye-election in the Charlieville electoral district to replace Mohammed but Ramlogan said that was not possible within the law.
He explained that Section 49 of the Constitution, which was invoked by House Speaker Wade Mark in relation to former St Joseph MP Herbert Volney which led to a bye-election in that constituency, applies to elected members of Parliament in the House of Representatives.
“It does not apply to municipal corporations and local Government elections,” he stressed.
He noted this was not the first time that people have voted against a party at the Local Government level and noted that Mohammed’s choice to vote against the line taken by his party “does not equate to crossing the floor.”
He recalled that Warner had got two councillors from Sangre Grande Regional Corporation to vote against the UNC and also got councillors in Chaguanas to vote against the UNC to remove Suruj Rambachan as mayor and install Natasha Navas. He noted that councillor Ramesh Ramdhan of the CBC also crossed over to the ILP.
“So there is ample precedent and I didn’t hear any call for fresh election in those situations on the same principle,” he said.
He noted the law must be upheld in all situations.
Questioned whether Government was considering legislation to prevent a deadlock similar to that in the CBC, Ramlogan commented, “I think with the benefit of hindsight one would always try to remedy the problems that occur to prevent the deadlock from occurring.”
He noted that after the 18/18 tie in 2001 general elections they adjusted the boundaries to have an odd number of constituents so you cannot have a tie any more.
“One would have to review these matters to see whether one can have an odd as opposed to an even number to prevent a tie from occurring,” he said.