The Facts: Both the Prime Minister and the Army have admitted that these are the AG’s children
Pictures of children handling high-powered military weapons have been made public. The Prime Minister has admitted in Parliament that they are the children of AG Faris Al-Rawi. The Defence Force has also confirmed this. Despite these admissions, the AG has steadfastly refused to confirm or deny whether the children are his.
The police have launched a criminal investigation to determine how these children came into possession of such dangerous and sophisticated weapons. The Defence Force has also established a Board of Inquiry to ascertain how this managed to happen as civilians are not supposed to handle weapons.
It is most unfortunate that the irresponsible conduct of AG Al-Rawi has put children in such a precarious position. This is not about young children so much so as it is about the rule of law. Recently, a father was charged for wilful neglect of his child which resulted in the child drowning during floods.
Our Constitution injuncts us to ensure that no one is above the law as we are all subject to the law. The perception of a criminal justice system based on different strokes for different folks will further damage public confidence in a critical pillar of our democracy.
Conflicts of Interest: Defence Council, National Security Council, Police Complaints Authority, Cabinet and Legal Advisor to the State
The AG has said that this burning issue does not affect the performance of his duties and his job. I respectfully beg to differ as it directly impacts on the performance of many of his duties.
The AG is a member of the Defence Council established under the Defence Act, Chap 14:01. This Council is the tribunal established in law to receive complaints from military officers. This is the avenue for redress for soldiers who have been targeted, victimized, intimidated and harassed.
Thus, if a soldier is being pressured to massage his testimony at the Inquiry to exculpate the AG and his family, he will essentially have to lodge a complaint to the Defence Council of which the very AG is a member.
The AG sits on the National Security Council. The heads of all the security agencies including the Defence Force and the Police Service report to this Council chaired by the Prime Minister. It would be easy for the AG to use this position to ‘pressure’ and influence the relevant security agency which is investigating this incident involving his children.
Police Officers can be investigated by the Police Complaints Authority for misconduct. The AG is the line minister for the PCA which can be used to apply indirect pressure on officers involved in the investigation by suddenly subjecting them to investigations by the PCA or, otherwise.
- The AG is the legal adviser of the State. He represents and advises the police service and the defence force. Should legal advice be required during the course of these investigations, is it fair that they should have to turn to the person whose family is the subject of the investigation for guidance?
- The AG is a Cabinet Member. He will be called upon to advise the Cabinet on sensitive matters pertaining to the police and army whilst these agencies investigate him for an incident that could implicate serving officers. He is compromised and justice and fairness will not be seen to be done in such matters.
MINISTER YOUNG: CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Minister Young usually acts for AG Al Rawi when need arises. He is however a witness to these serious criminal offences and is therefore equally compromised. His strident utterances in Parliament have confirmed his bias in favour of AG Al Rawi.
BUYOUT OF THE LEAVE OF THE CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF
The Minister of National Security has admitted that last Thursday, Cabinet agreed to buy out the leave of the present Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The government has now compromised the Chief of Defence in its haste to protect the AG and Minister Young. The CDS is the person with ultimate responsibility for the Inquiry (which the army has promised the public) into these pictures of children handling sophisticated high grade military weapons.
Several questions now arise:
- Given the clear conflict of interest, did AG Al-Rawi and Minister Stuart Young recuse themselves from this Cabinet meeting? They are both involved in the issue at hand and are plainly witnesses to the commission of serious criminal offences. It should be noted that Minister Young was not accompanied by his family.
- The Prime Minister, having jumped to the defence of his AG and unjustifiably attacked the army by accusing it of leaking these pictures and condemning the officers responsible, is a potential witness for the Board of Inquiry and Police investigation as he clearly possesses relevant evidence about this “leak” and where it came from.
- Having taken the side of the AG and Minister Young, he is himself now involved in the matter and has compromised himself. He is biased in favour of his AG. He has taken a side even before the Inquiry or the police investigation has started. Did he also recuse himself from this Cabinet meeting in the interest of transparency and fairness?
- This sudden buyout of the CDS’s leave on the eve of this Inquiry will be perceived as a payoff to secure his political support and cooperation. The Defence Force issued a press release in which it stated that it has “traditionally provided close protection for national strategic leaders” and hence the AG and his family were invited to their base for training.
- Since then, several former AG’s (John Jeremie SC, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, Anand Ramlogan SC and Garvin Nicholas) have in fact confirmed that no such training was ever offered to them far less their families. Several questions now arise: When and why did the Army suddenly decide to offer military training with high-grade weapons to the AG and his family? How come no other AG was afforded similar training in the face of death threats to themselves and their families?
Indeed, I can confirm that at no time was I, as Prime Minister, or my family offered such training by the Defence Force.
This buyout of leave of the CDS will undermine the authority of the CDS and erode public confidence in the Inquiry and lead to the inescapable perception that it is designed to provide a political scapegoat in the form of innocent soldiers to justify the Prime Minister’s baseless attack on the army and save the AG and his family from criminal prosecution. The Prime Minister’s attack on the army has put the CDS in an untenable and compromising position which the CDS did not deserve.
Clear Violation of several Laws: The Rule of Law
This is a serious matter involving the commission of several criminal offences which carry serious fines and terms of imprisonment:
- Section 6 of the Firearms Act Chap 16:01 – prohibits a person from having a firearm in his possession without being the holder of a Firearm User’s Licence.
- Section 8 of the Firearms Act – prohibits a person, other than Police, Member of Defence Force or holder of an FUL from carrying a firearm in a public place.
- Section 9 of the Firearms Act – makes it an offence for any person to transfer, test or prove a firearm for any person he has reason to believe is under the age of 25 years.
- Section 3 of the Military Training (Prohibition) Act, Chap 15:04 – prohibits the carrying out of training in the use of firearms without written authorization from the President
- Section 4 of the Military Training (Prohibition) Act – makes it an offence to assemble in any place to carry out such training in the use of firearms.
- Section 8 of the Children Act 12 of 2012 – prohibits any person from giving a firearm to a child, a child being defined as anyone under the age of 18.
The police investigation will have to clarify the role of the AG and Minister Stuart Young in light of the fact that they were both present at the material time and also receiving similar military training with weapons. It is clear that they will have to give statements. The idea that the AG was not with his children and did not know what they were doing rings hollow and is extremely suspicious as it is doubtful whether a rational parent will leave their young children unsupervised for long in such a dangerous environment.
AG Al Rawi’s Clearance of Himself
“I’m not the subject of any police probe/inquiry. Nor could I possibly be the subject of any such, as I have nothing to answer. I have nothing to worry about.”
These words demonstrate AG Al Rawi’s unfitness and unsuitability to continue to hold the office of Attorney General. The words of AG Al Rawi are simply self-serving declarations of a man in peril, seeking to disguise his incompetence, prop up his credibility and be a judge and jury in his own cause. The AG cannot be a judge in his own cause and clear himself.
The statements made by the AG are reckless, irresponsible and improper having regard to these on-going investigations. As Attorney General, Mr. Al Rawi is constitutionally vested with the role as legal advisor to the Executive. This is confirmed by section 76(2) of the Constitution. There are intricate factual and legal issues involved in this investigation.
It is inevitable that legal advice will be sought from different quarters of the State machinery and the chief advisor to each and every arm of the State is the Attorney General. By his clear and unambiguous statements the Chief Legal Advisor of the government has already declared that he could not possibly be the subject of any investigation. Did Mr. Al Rawi consider the effect of such statements before he made them? Would this declaration not affect the exercise of the discretion of those who may hold the view that Mr. Al Rawi’s actions ought to be investigated?
By his own words the Attorney General has prejudiced this investigation. He has already publicly proclaimed that he cannot be the subject of any such probe or inquiry. Mr. Al Rawi must know that the decision as to whether he is to be the subject of any probe is one for the independent Commissioner of Police. If he is to be the subject of any probe by the Defence Force that will be a decision for the Chief of Defence Staff.
It was entirely improper, reckless and irresponsible for the Attorney General to have made these statements. Such statements can only serve to prejudice any investigation and instil a degree of fear of prejudice in those that are to conduct any such investigation.
That Mr. Al Rawi continues to hold the position as Attorney General while these investigations are on-going is entirely untenable as it is constitutionally improper and does not promote good administration.
While in government I had the courage and strength to place the public interest first when issues as the present arose. Hence, I removed several cabinet Ministers including the Attorney General when necessary. I did the right thing regardless of the consequences.
The actions of the present Prime Minister will determine whether his clarion calls for Ministers in the PP government to step aside or be removed until they had been cleared of wrongdoing was hypocritical and cheap politics of convenience or whether it was based on higher principles of transparent leadership.
There is only one option open to the Prime Minister now and it is to relieve Mr. Al Rawi of his present portfolio until these investigations are completed.