Opposition Senator Wayne Sturge today harshly criticised the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago for its silence on the SSA (amendment) Bill 2016 and called on the Association’s President and Vice President to resign.
Commenting on the matter Sturge said if both of them fail to do so the Association’s membership must convene a special meeting at which it would “rid itself” of the two top officers. The Senator said this is the only way that the Association would remain relevant and ensure that its voice is trusted on any issue.
Sturge expressed alarm at the silence of the Association on this fundamental matter noting that in the past it has been most vocal on lesser national issues.
“The Law Association cannot continue to remain silent when the citizenry and even some of its members have expressed alarm over the implications of this controversial legislation,” Sturge said.
He pointed to the Association’s roles and functions as outlined on its webpage and stated that the Association, by its own mandate, “has a duty and responsibility to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.”
He added that the Association’s website states that in carrying out its mandate the Association is fully committed to commenting on any situation concerning the Constitution and that it does so “with professional independence, integrity and social responsibility.”
Legislators first debated the controversial SSA (amendment) Bill 2016 in the House of Representatives on 11 March; it ended in the Senate on 10 May 2016. Having passed in both Houses it now awaits Presidential assent to become law.
“Given the fact that the debate on the SSA (amendment) Bill was carried live on the Parliament Channel and generated heated debate both inside and outside of the Parliament Chamber on issues such as the lack of safeguards for the citizenry and the violation of the Constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy and related rights and freedoms, it is passing strange that the citizens heard not one peep out of this esteemed body,” Sturge stated.
“The Law Association is not simply a pressure group which can decide when to add its voice to issues as important as the violation of fundamental rights. The Law Association must never (as it has in the last few weeks) act in such a manner that it can be considered a party group or an extension of a political party finding its voice only when so directed by its political puppet master.
“The council of the Law Association by its failure to meet as a matter of urgency, and by virtue of its continued deafening silence on the issues surrounding the controversial SSA (amendment) Act, has proven itself a colossal failure and must hang its head in shame.
“The Law Council of the Law Association has acted irresponsibly and without impartiality and integrity as required and described by its very own defined role and function,” Sturge added.
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Wayne D. Sturge
18th May 2016