The recent statements made by Minister in the Office of the Attorney General, Senator Renuka Sagramsingh, in relation to the recent judgment by the Privy Council involving John Henry Smith and others, is a shocking and blatant attempt to pervert the course of justice.
While the role of the Attorney General is one of responsibility for the administration of justice generally, it is the Director of Public Prosecutions’ role to decide whether or not to prosecute or discontinue a matter.
The use of the Attorney General’s office by Senator Sagramsingh, to promulgate an unsolicited opinion as to whether or not any prosecution should continue following the decision of the Privy Council, is a vulgar use of the resources of that office. While Minister Sagramsingh was elated to let us know of her initiative to secure a host of different legal opinions on the Privy Council judgment, locally, and abroad in London and in Miami, she has not yet revealed to us the cost of such an exercise to the taxpayers.
Senator Sagramsingh’s actions is, tragically, yet another classic example of executive overreach, interference and abuse of public office by this administration.
Trite democratic norms, values and conventions suggest that Ministers of State ought not to influence or molest the decisions of independent officeholders. This constitutes an example of institutional capture by the Executive in the worse form and is a direct attack on our democracy.
The irony of this sorry episode is that the very dangers of which the Privy Council identified in their judgement, namely the appearance of an overzealous Attorney General interfering in criminal prosecutions, is now brazenly being repeated in open defiance of the clear ruling of our nation’s highest court. Minister Sagramsingh herself has pointed out that her Ministry cannot tell the Director of Public Prosecutions what to do, yet the goal of her conference was to reassure the population that they are doing their best to ensure that the matter does not slip away from their hands into oblivion. The paradox escapes her.
Apart from the merits or demerits of the case, any right thinking citizen must condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this bold, and undemocratic attempt to influence the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to these proceedings. To do otherwise would undermine or render the Rule of Law nugatory.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has indicated that he is prepared to give mature consideration to pertinent matters as he is required to make an independent determination in respect of the continuance of the matter or otherwise, based on the many factors that would be brought to bear in so doing.
It is hoped that this will remind the embattled Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, the boundaries of its own remit.
Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West