The decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to uphold the decision of former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to recall Parliament in September 2012 to repeal the now infamous section 34 has vindicated her.
The Privy Council delivered a 19-page ruling on Monday in which it stated that the repeal of the controversial Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act was lawful.
Five law lords of the Privy Council stated that Parliament did not act illegally when it repealed the legislation almost two weeks after it was proclaimed on August 31, 2012.
Their decision is consistent with rulings from High Court Judge Mira Dean-Armourer and the Court of Appeal rejecting the constitutional motion lawsuits brought by businessmen Ameer Edoo and Steve Ferguson, and Maritime General insurance company.
Their lawsuits became a test case that has now set the precedent for all 42 people and companies that applied for their cases to be thrown out based on section 34 of the act.
That clause stated that people whose trials for specific offences had not started after ten years after the crime was alleged to have been committed had the right to apply to have their cases dismissed.
In their lawsuits Edoo, Ferguson and Maritime General argued that by repealing the law Parliament infringed on the country’s judicial independence by removing the court’s power to determine cases already filed before it.
The Privy Council rejected that argument and ruled that the move by Parliament to correct its “oversight” was legal and did not infringe anyone’s constitutional rights.
The former Prime Minister withstood the fiercest political attacks from the then Leader of the Opposition Dr. Keith Rowley and the entire PNM apparatus on this issue for the rest of her term of office.
She even had to withstand the attacks of five independent Senators at the time who voted against the Bill in the persons of Elton Prescott, SC, Dr. Rolph Balgobin, Dr. Lennox Bernard, the late Corinne Baptiste-Mc Knight, and Dr. James Armstrong. One of those former independent Senators, Elton Prescott, SC, told a public forum hosted by Professor Patrick Watson, Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies at the University of the West Indies that in his view “those applicants under the now repealed Section 34 are going to challenge the constitutionality of the repealed legislation and…will do so successfully.”
Asha Javeed reported the Senator’s view in the October 4th, 2012 edition of the Express under the headline “Ish and Steve will go free”.
The reality is that the court of public opinion was swayed against Mrs. Persad-Bissessar. However, her principled decision and her judgment in recalling Parliament to repeal this legislation was legally sound notwithstanding what other Senior Counsel might have had to say.
She has had to wait for four years and one unfavourable general election to be vindicated.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: Dr. David Lee MP, Chairman of the United National Congress at 680-4493