(Trinidad Express) Attorney General Anand Ramlogan says he is using his own resources, rather than the resources of the State, to litigate his cases against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.
Speaking to the Express via telephone from London yesterday, Ramlogan said the allegation made by Rowley that he was using public funds to bankrupt him (Rowley) was false.
Ramlogan said he found Rowley’s claims made at a press conference on Monday to be “astonishing, incredible and deceptive”. The Attorney General added that he did not know where Rowley got his information from since “nowhere in the pre-action procotol letters does it say that I was using public funds”.
He said the lawsuits were “plainly issued” on his behalf “in his personal capacity as a private citizen”.
And this was done in the face of advice given to the State that he (Ramlogan) would be well within his rights to pursue these claims for defamation in his official capacity using State resources because the defamatory statements made related to the performance of the official duties as Attorney General.
The AG further stated that contrary to the PNM’s assertion that the suing of one office holder by another was new and unprecedented, the PNM was in power when several defamation suits were filed against Opposition MPs, including the Member for Siparia, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“We defended these matters without making any spurious claims about the Government attempting to muzzle us. We respected the independence of the court to adjudicate on the matter,” he said.
Ramlogan also recalled former opposition leader Basdeo Panday was subjected to several defamation lawsuits. “The issue is not about muzzling anyone, the issue is about the rule of law. And Mr Rowley has nothing to worry about if he has not violated the law,” he said.
“Why is he crying wolf when there are about six lawyers on the Opposition benches. There is (Fitzgerald) Hinds, (Faris) Al-Rawi, (Pennelope) Beckles, (Marlene) McDonald. Is it is that they are charging Rowley to defend him? If so, then he has a much bigger problem than the lawsuits because it would mean that there is a lack of respect for him as Opposition Leader by his own MPs,” Ramlogan stated.
The AG added that when Rowley wanted to clear his name, he took on the Integrity Commission and at his own cost but he (Rowley) was now complaining when another citizen exercised his right to pursue justice to protect his name.
“Dr Rowley enjoys no monopoly in this regard and he should simply allow the legal process to take its course,” Ramlogan said.
In a release, the AG charged that in Rowley’s attempt to prejudice the public psyche, “if not the court”, he not only misrepresented the subject matters that resulted in these defamation lawsuits but committed a further libel upon him by alleging misuse of State resources.
Ramlogan’s pre-action protocols relate to Rowley’s remarks on the extradition of former UNC financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, the functioning of the Financial Intelligence Unit and the hiring of private lawyers by the Attorney General’s office.
The Attorney General said Rowley:
a) alleged that the Attorney General misused and abused his powers by asking the FIU for private banking information about citizens when no such request was ever made;
b) Rowley also claimed he abused his powers by awarding over 51 per cent of State briefs to attorneys from his former law firm, when he (Ramlogan) had never briefed his former firm;
c) Rowley also charged that he (AG) improperly manipulated and/or conspired with the court to obtain a particular result in the extradition proceedings against Galbaransingh and Ferguson. The Attorney General said he in fact resisted and opposed the attempt to block the extradition.
“This is not an attempt to hinder or muzzle the Honourable Leader of Opposition. The Opposition enjoys the cover of privilege for any statements made in the Parliament. Outside of the Parliament, the constitution right of freedom of political expression is subject to the law of defamation. Citizens are therefore entitled to protect their character, integrity and personnel reputation, if false and malicious statements are unlawfully made about them,” Ramlogan stated.
The AG also denied Rowley’s “outlandish suggestion” that he and the Prime Minister were misusing the national security agencies of the State to illegal wire-tap and intercept conversations of private citizens and Opposition politicians, describing it as “false, malicious and baseless”.
Noting that Rowley has made “a habit of launching scandalous and unscrupulous attacks” against him, Ramlogan said many of these attacks have been ignored .
He said: “No politician whether in Government or Opposition has the right to make untrue, scandalous and defamatory remarks against any citizen. The principle that ‘no man is above the law’ applies to everyone including the Leader of the Opposition.”