The revelations in media reports have confirmed the Opposition’s suspicions of political interference by the government in the administration of justice.
From the reports, it appears that the court’s process was tampered with by the Government in its hasty attempt to overturn the High Court judgment against it in the property tax case.
It is becoming abundantly clear that the Attorney General has breached the separation of powers that insulates the Judiciary from Government interference.
It is strange that less than two hours after the High Court gave judgment against the Government, staying the implementation of the valuation process and the property tax, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi was able to announce to the Parliament last Friday that the Government’s appeal in the property tax case was fixed for hearing on Monday at 9:00 am.
Prior to this, we relied on the word of the leader of our legal team, Mr Anand Ramlogan, SC that, based on his conversations with the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the Head of the Court of Appeal Registry, these two key functionaries flatly contradicted the AG’s bold prediction that the government’s appeal will be heard on Monday at 9:00 am.
We now have independent confirmation from the Express newspaper that up to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday 20th May, 2017, the Registrar of the Supreme Court Ms Jade Rodriguez had advised the media that Al-Rawi’s statement was false.
Within one hour of making that statement, the Registrar reportedly received, via email, an unfiled Notice of Appeal and fresh instructions that the Court of Appeal would be convened on Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. as stated by the Attorney General.
We also now know that Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Colm Imbert confirmed this via a text message to TV 6 news journalist Juhel Brown.
Mr Imbert failed to mention this important fact in his press release on Sunday when he attempted to distance himself from Al-Rawi’s announcement.
Imbert denied saying it in the Parliament but deliberately suppressed the fact that he had sent a text message to TV 6 news confirming that the Government’s appeal would be heard on Monday morning at 9:00 a.m.
To make matters worse, at Monday’s hearing the learned President of the Court Justice of Appeal Peter Jamadar disclosed that he was only contacted on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. and asked to consider whether he would grant an “appointment” in relation to this case.
This is a shocking revelation and we thank the Court for its forthright disclosure.
The undisputed facts that are now in the public domain are therefore:
- Al-Rawi announced on in Parliament on Friday at 7:45 p.m. that the Government’s appeal was fixed for hearing on Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert confirmed this via a text message to TV 6 reporter that same night.
- Up to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the Head of the Court of Appeal Registry both denied that this was so.
- An unfiled Notice of Appeal was emailed to the Registrar at 5:29 pm on Saturday and instructions were received to convene the Court of Appeal to grant “an appointment” in connection with this appeal on Monday at 9 am. An email was only sent at 6:25pm by the Registrar to our legal team.
- The Honourable Justices of Appeal who comprised the quorum to hear the appeal were only contacted at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night to inquire whether they could sit to deal with the Government’s appeal.
Our concerns have intensified with these startling revelations.
How was it possible for Al-Rawi to predict and announce on Friday 19th May, that the Court of Appeal would be sitting to hear the Government’s appeal on Monday at 9:00 a.m. when:
- No Notice of Appeal had been filed or even emailed to the Registrar;
- The learned judges had not even been contacted to see whether it was possible for them to sit to hear the matter on Monday given the fact they would have already scheduled other matters for hearing long in advance;
- The learned judges having not been contacted to consider the matter, there could not have possibly been any fixture for Monday at 9:00 a.m.;
- Both the Head of the Court of Appeal Registry and the Registrar of the Supreme Court who are responsible for arranging court hearings had no knowledge about such a sitting;
- The UNC’s legal team was in the dark about this sitting on Monday at 9:00 a.m.;
Al-Rawi has, by his actions, tainted the administration of justice in relation to this matter. I call upon him to come clean and tell the nation how he was able to predict, or worse yet, dictate, appeals in the property tax case.
What special insider information did he have?
What backroom machinations were there?
Was there conspiracy and collusion with anyone behind closed doors?
Who did he meet with?
Who did he speak to?
His explanation in the Express that “we were informed by our attorneys-at-law for the State that the application for an urgent hearing was presented to move the Court of Appeal if necessary on Friday and that the Registrar confirmed that the judge who is assigned for urgent business — that’s Mr Justice Mendonca — had reviewed the position and then said that they would provide a listing for Monday morning at 9 o’clock and, of course, that is always contingent upon the undertaking to file the papers on the usual fashion” simply cannot be true.
The Registrar has publicly denied any knowledge about this to the media and Mr Ramlogan SC.
Al-Rawi is therefore accusing the Registrar of telling an untruth, and we condemn this attack on the Registrar’s character and reputation in what is plainly an attempt by the AG to extricate himself from the situation he has created.
Al-Rawi’s attempt to say that this was in accordance with the usual court protocol is incredible and embarrassing. How could the court possibly fix an appeal for hearing without even having sight of the Notice of Appeal?
And even so, without notifying the Registrar and the other party?
These events have all the hallmarks of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and we demand a full and immediate investigation into this matter.
We call upon the Chief Justice to take immediate action in this regard and make the findings public before the appeal is heard on June 6th.
It is clear that this was a clandestine attempt by the government to try and outmanoeuvre us by interfering in the administration of justice to get the judgment against the government lifted.
It is my belief that Al-Rawi has brought the administration of justice into disrepute and we call upon him to account for his actions.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
24th May 2017