ATTORNEY General Anand Ramlogan yesterday called on Chief Justice Ivor Archie to immediately convene an ad hoc or special criminal court to try all of the accused in the Piarco corruption cases to once and for all put a full stop to the saga.
Ramlogan made the call yesterday in the wake of the judgment of the High Court in the Section 34 repeal case which threw out the case of several Piarco accused who sought to seek freedom by arguing that Section 34 was still valid law.
“As I have publicly said before, this matter is critical and should be accorded every priority. It is therefore my view that the Chief Justice should make every effort to convene an ad-hoc court to try this case as soon as possible, to put a definitive end — one way or the other — to this endless legal marathon,” Ramlogan told reporters at Cabildo Chambers, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, hours afer Justice Mira-Dean Armorer handed down a judgment which preserved the repeal of Section 34. “There are serious charges and these matters deserve immediate attention because this matter has been a legal marathon and we need to put a full stop.”
The Attorney General added, “It must also be mentioned that the State also successfully resisted the application for a conservatory order. This means, that unless the Court of Appeal grants a stay, the way is now clear for the DPP and the judiciary to try these defendants.”
Legal sources yesterday said the Attorney General’s call appears to relate to Section 74 (1) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act which empowers the Chief Justice to designate any place for “the trial of civil and criminal cases.”
Ramlogan noted that the question of convening a special ad hoc court is not unprecedented, having been done in the case of Nankissoon Boodram, also known as Dole Chadee. For this case, a special court, the Chaguaramas High Court, was convened in 1996 for his trial. Contacted yesterday, spokesperson for the Judiciary Jones P Madeira stated, “I would have to get the statement and to see whether the honourable Chief Justice has any statement on that.”
Ramlogan said the ruling has far-reaching implications for ongoing corruption probes and proceedings indicated and ongoing through successive administrations. “This was a resounding and complete victory for the rule of law and the State of Trinidad and Tobago,” Ramlogan told reporters. “All eight points which were raised by the defendants in this matter were resoundingly rejected by the court in a judgment delivered in record-breaking time. The court has given a landmark judgment.”
The Attorney General noted that the judge’s upholding of the repeal of Section 34 – which had limited the duration of certain criminal proceedings to ten years – would mean that any ongoing corruption probes and proceedings would not lapse simply because ten years had elapsed. This meant politicians will not be able to escape corruption probes simply because they served two five-year terms in office. “So that all citizens are equal and subject to the rule of law,” he said. He said the State’s next course of action would be to prepare and submit its legal bills to the court to have costs – which the litigants will have to pay – assessed. He said these costs would easily run into millions.
Ramlogan expressed confidence that any appeals brought by the litigants would not be victorious.
“I am extremely confident that the State will be able to successfully defend any appeal in this matter,” he said. He said the judge did not invalidate the retroactive nature of the repeal legislation, and found that Section 34 itself did not create any new rights since it was simply a limitation provision for the prosecution of offences.