T&T Govt may give more appeals to CCJ

(Trinidad Express) Government may decide to give jurisdiction to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for constitutional appeals on criminal matters, particularly murder cases.

Speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday, Housing Minister and Acting Attorney General Roodal Moonilal said apart from the move being an attempt to assert the country’s sovereignty after 50 years of independence, it was also a measure designed to address crime.

“This is also a measure that we intend to use to deal with crime so that we can quickly dispense with certain matters before the court and have faith in our own and conduct the business,” he said.

Noting that several commentators had raised the issue of the constitutional dimension to criminal matters and the Privy Council still having jurisdiction over those matters, Moonilal said: “They raise that as if it is a big thing. All it means is that when the time comes very shortly, we may or may not take the matters of constitutional appeal on criminal appeals, particular capital offences, and taking those appeals to the CCJ.

“It is a constitutional amendment that is required. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago with the requisite majority can alter the Constitution. This is the Parliament.”

He added: “So all those people who jump up and say: ‘This wouldn’t do anything’, they haven’t seen the legislation yet. This is the approach we would consider.”

He said the Opposition had pledged its support and he expected that being a “loyal, honest” Opposition, it would remain true to its word and support the legislation.

Moonilal quoted the chairman of the Commission of Enquiry in the 1990 attempted coup, Sir David Simmons SC, who said he could not have gotten a more appropriate gift for his 72nd birthday. Noting that Simmons is a former attorney general of Barbados, Moonilal said: “That is endorsement!”

He said acting Chief Justice Wendell Kangaloo, the president of the Law Association and the Bar Association as well as other prominent attorneys and the Leader of Opposition had all gone on record, complimenting the government on this measure.

Moonilal, however, accused Rowley of hypocrisy shortly after for “decrying” the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan for using attorneys for his private lawsuit against Rowley, who were at the same time employed by the State for briefs.

Moonilal said former prime minister Patrick Manning used lawyers in his private matters who were also working for the State at the same time. He said he did not want to call the names of Stuart Young, Michael Quamina, Kerwyn Garcia or Colin Kangaloo, because they were good persons and prominent lawyers. But, the point he wanted to make was that Manning did the same thing.

He was scolded by PNM MPs for talking about Manning whom he has earlier wished well in his recuperation from illness.

Moonilal countered: “So because we wish him well, we can’t talk about anything he did? We don’t wish him that well.”

 

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