I have read where the COP’s Chairman Mrs Carolyn Seepersad –Bachan commenting on the Anil Robert’s matter said that he should step aside while an investigation is on-going. Of course we know now that Anil Roberts was never referred to the DPP. Even if Anil was referred to the DPP, is it not premature to ask him to step aside where he has not been convicted of anything or even charged by the Police on instructions from the DPP.
The Chairman of the COP argued that she was basing her recommendations on a matter of principle. However this appears to be a clash of principles where the presumption of innocence until proven guilty should prevail. The COP has similarly in the past commented on Jack Warner. It is good to have personal principles and live by them. However, the application of personal principles must also take into consideration the rights of others, in these cases to be heard. The Chairman of the COP recently also said that there is a high price to pay for integrity. I agree. However, in upholding one’s personal integrity one must not compromise the rights of others or make a premature judgement of another. One has to be careful that in one’s ambition to look good, one by flouting “principles” really begins to look awful. There is an old saying that sometimes one looks good only because others are made to look bad. There is no personal glory where one seeks to claim a higher morality by denouncing another.
The Trinidad and Tobago 1976 Republican Constitution is very clear on the conditions which will exclude a person from being a Member of Parliament. A mere unproven accusation is not enough to ask a person to demit office. The COP would be well advised to consider this.
For purposes of clarification, I enclose the reasons for the disqualification of a Member of Parliament as read in Section 48 of the Constitution.
DISQUALIFICATIONS FOR ELECTION AS MEMBER
48.- 1. No person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives who-
a. is a citizen of a country other than Trinidad and Tobago having become such a citizen voluntarily, or is under a declaration of allegiance to such a country;
b. is an undischarged bankrupt having been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in Trinidad and Tobago;
c. is mentally ill, within the meaning of the Mental Health Act, 1975;
d. is under sentence of death imposed on him by a court or is serving a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called) exceeding twelve months imposed on him by a court or substituted by competent authority for some other sentence imposed on him by a court, or is under such a sentence of imprisonment the execution of which has been suspended;
e. is disqualified for membership of the House of Representatives by any law in force in Trinidad and Tobago by reason of his holding, or acting in, any office the functions of which involve-
i. any responsibility for, or in connection with, the conduct of any election, or
ii. any responsibility for the compilation or revision of any electoral register;
f. is disqualified for membership of the House of Representatives by virtue of any law in force in Trinidad and Tobago by reason of his having been convicted of any offence relating to elections; or
g. is not qualified to be registered as an elector at a Parliamentary election under any law in force in Trinidad and Tobago.
2. Parliament may provide that, subject to such exceptions and limitations, if any, as may be prescribed, a person may be disqualified for membership of the House of Representatives by virtue or-
a. his holding or acting in any office or appointment (either individually or by reference to a class of office or appointment);
b. his belonging to any of the armed forces of the State or to any class of person that is comprised in any such force; or
c. his belonging to any police force or to any class of person that is comprised in any such force.
3. For the purposes of paragraph (d) of subsection (1)-
a. two or more sentences of imprisonment that are required to be served consecutively shall be regarded as separate sentences if none of those sentences exceeds twelve months, but if any one of such sentences exceeds that term they shall be regarded as one sentence; and
b. no account shall be taken of a sentence of imprisonment imposed as an alternative to or in default of the payment of a fine.
None of these apply to Anil Roberts or Jack Warner.