34Gate!

This morning, in the aftermath of the Barnum and Bailey Circus Show that passed for a debate, for all of 10 hours yesterday the crucial questions still remain unanswered.

No member of the Cabinet has yet satisfied the public's concern about why they decided to pluck Section 34, along with 4 other minor clauses, out of the Indictable Offences Act and proclaim it on the evening of August 30th while most of the nation was busy with Independence celebrations. Of course now, it explains why the Government had a celebration on the Eve of Independence, as well as on the evening of Independence. And there was I simply thinking is because Kamla love to fete! Nope, all the fetes were weapons of mass distraction.

There was nothing particularly new about the style of debate yesterday in the house. It pretty much resembled last year's SOE justification and extension debate, and the Motion of No Confidence debate in March of this year. The Opposition asked the same questions in each of its presentations by Rowley, Imbert and McDonald: Why were the provisions agreed to by Senator Volney ignored, and parts of the Bill proclaimed; and why was that particular clause pulled out for proclamation when it was proclaimed  in the manner it was proclaimed. After Moonilal, Ramlogan, Roberts, Warner, Volney and Ramlogan again, those questions are still to be answered. However they did all manage to agree on repealing the Law retroactively, after Imbert suggested changes. the Bill now moves on to the Upper House.

How It went Down:

Kamla arrived late, and took the opportunity to distract the Parliament with the announcement that the Budget would be on Monday October 1st. Then Parliament recessed for 15 minutes for Kamla to hold a quick strategy pow wow.

Then they returned and the bullshit began...

What we do know is that Anand Ramlogan was very concerned about Imbert wanting the Bill to first be 7 years instead of 10. We also know that Ramlogan thinks the PNM wanted it to be 7 years instead of 10 to assist Rowley, Calder Hart, Juliana Pena and Andre Monteil.....what the Attorney General conveniently forgot is that none of the names listed have criminal charges laid against them in a court of law....but Ish and Steve do....so the Indictable Offences Act in no way impacts them....and this is through the fault of the AG...he is yet to lift a finger to lay charges against Hart, Manning or Pena...in fact I think he must have spent the last 2.5 years in office attempting to free Ish and Steve, not attending to the business of government.

What we learned from Anil Roberts is that Rowley parks his car on pavements, and that in legalese "shall" is not mandatory....Roberts sounded a bit Partapped in Parliament yesterday, no lie.

From Jack Warner we got a history of criminal activity in Trinidad and Tobago and a list of the lawyers who have assisted with such criminal activity. We also had another threat thrown at the Mirror.....come with the $12m, Jack and then we will take your threats seriously...until then, focus on developing a Crime Plan, nah?

From Hubert "Free Brad Boyce" Volney, we learned that he created the Bill and inserted that Clause for poor people....a clause that requires the perpetrator to have enough money to extend a trial for 10 years....Volney is the fucking Simon Bolivar of St Joseph, oui!

What we also learned is that our silkened luminaries, after hustling to proclaim Section 34 on August 30th, realised that the Bill was flawed and hustled just as quickly to repeal it, all on their own....no public pressure from the Opposition and the US...they did this for us, the nation, because they always listening to us. Doh mind Kamla could never answer any of our questions directly.

We were treated to Minister after Minister praising the legal expertise of Kamla Rani....so much ass licking taking place that Hollywood Sachy would be forgiven for mistaking it as a Maximum Dun Out of the PM!

In all of this learning, the crucial questions weren't answered at all.

The UNC claimed to not know about the COP Press Release, and Prakash Ramadhar never spoke. So we, the people, have no idea how the Minister responsible for overseeing the Legislative Review Committee can claim, via his Chairman in a press release, that they never saw the Indictable Offences Act, specifically Section34  in the form it was eventually passed. According to Toney's release, Ramadhar saw Section 34 with a different wording before it was passed in the Lower House and went to the Senate. When the Bill got to the Senate, under Justice Volney's stewardship the wording changed. The Bill went from saying:

…. a Judge shall discharge an accused if the proceedings were instituted prior to the coming into force of this Act and the trial has not commenced within ten years after the proceedings were instituted” (before the Senate amendment)

To saying:

“….a Judge shall, on an application by the accused, discharge the accused and record a verdict of not guilty if the offence is alleged to have been committed on a date that is ten years or more before the date of the application” (after the Senate amendment)

  • This meant that in the pre-Senate amendment an accused person could have his prosecution stopped if after 10 years of being charged he was not brought to trial.

That Ramadhar, who would have had oversight on the legislation, never said a word in the debate last night speaks volumes. And the Opposition asked why was there a change in the wording of the Bill between both Houses.....this question was never answered.

At no point in time in the course of the debate did any member of the Cabinet read or quote from the Hansard....which has on record Volney agreeing to undertaking certain provisions before proclaiming the Bill. It was only the Opposition quoting from the Hansard.

Given that Volney would have promised, on behalf of the Government, to pass the law only after all provisions was in place, means that Volney  is in contempt of Parliament.

Permit me to bore you with a quote from the Hansard, where Imbert is addressing the Parliament, and in it he talks about the provisions that must be put in place, such as building new courts etc to handle to capacity of petitions:

I had the opportunity to look at a report done on cases in the Magistrates‟ Court recently. If my memory served me correctly they have 10,000 new cases per year, some number like that, a significant number of which have all the requirements for a preliminary enquiry. So that once this Bill is passed, you are  going to have a situation where thousands—not hundreds, thousands of cases are going to arrive in the High Court. That is why I am holding the Minister to his words; I took careful notes, where he said that the Bill had a proclamation clause. I am glad he referred to this. Let me quote him correctly. He said, “Once all the procedural and administrative mechanisms are in place, the Bill will be proclaimed.” I am taking the Minister at his word that this legislation will not be  implemented until the necessary systems are in place, so that we do not have a situation where judges in the High Court are going to have to deal with hundreds of cases.  I am not talking about the committal hearing. I am talking about the actual trial itself, because what you are doing is fast tracking. What you have told us is that you will be fast tracking matters. You quoted the case of Humphries, which means I do not have to quote it, where you indicated that the Privy Council had found that if you changed a procedure, that was not taking away the accused right to a fair trial, per se, that you had to look at the whole thing in context. Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the Minister through you. In context, you have to look at what has been done and determine whether you have breached the person‟s right to a fair trial. It is obvious that it is the intention to apply this legislation immediately it is proclaimed of course, once it is proclaimed. Let me qualify: as soon as you have your systems in place you will  proclaim this Bill. It means that people who have matters in progress would now be subjected to the new procedure, once the prosecutor or the accused opt to do so. So you are going to have hundreds of cases going before judges, thousands I dare say, because it would take you some time to build those courts, and it would take you some time to deal with the rules. I also noticed that the Minister did not  talk about the rules at all. Let me just say at the outset, since we are on this side are not going to oppose this Bill, but we have reservations which we hope the Minister would listen to, it is incumbent on us to deal with the issues that the Minister did not deal with. The Minister did not deal with the fact that in Trinidad and Tobago, unlike so many other Commonwealth jurisdictions, there are no criminal procedure rules. We do not have them. We have civil proceedings  rules. They are quite detailed. If you go to the United Kingdom, they have criminal procedure rules. I could not bring them today because those rules constitute over 300 pages in the United Kingdom. We do not have them. We do not have criminal procedure rules in force in Trinidad and Tobago today. We do not have them. One of the things  we are going to ask for, that before you proclaim this Bill that we most certainly would see those procedure rules laid. I assume, like the civil proceedings rules they would be laid here so we could look at them and make sure that they are just and fair, before you implement them.
The biggest blow to the government's case though is DPP Roger Gaspard's claim that he was not consulted on the Bill, and further, after giving the time line of the Bill's passage and proclamation, arriving at the conclusion that it appears to be a conspiracy.
The Government never once referred to Gaspard's 8-page letter; just as they never acknowledged the COP letter, or quoted from the Hansard, or indeed refer to the comments from the Criminal Law Association.
Kamla has refused to address the public yet again on a matter of public concern. The Opposition has now laid a careful case for why they cannot trust the Government and why the public cannot trust them either.
At the end of the day, this bid to free Ish and Steve has revealed this government to be dishonest and conniving. It has also revealed the leader of the COP to be weak and foolish. It has shown us that even the Opposition can be tripped up, and that our vigilance as citizens where this government is concerned must be on high alert because we never know when they are going to screw us over.
34Gate has also shown me that Ish and Steve may well bring down another UNC government!
De Vice Cyah Done!

A copy of the Hansard Record of the debate on Section 34 in Dec 2011 can be found here.