Rowley: T&T Govt confused about Privy Council withdrawal

(Trinidad Express) Government did not tell the truth when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the proposal for a phased withdrawal from the Privy Council earlier this year.

This is the view of Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, at his Charles Street, Port of Spain office, Rowley quoted from a letter sent by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to the Caricom Secretary General on June 4, seeking to get the approval of Caricom countries for Government’s proposed phased withdrawal.

Rowley stated Ramlogan’s letter contradicted the position he (Ramlogan) had taken in April—when he described as “mischievous and baseless”, statements from the Opposition and former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj that there would be stumbling blocks to the implementation of such a proposal.

Ramlogan had stated there was ample precedence for withdrawal on a phased basis and cited countries such as Canada, Malaysia and Singapore.

Rowley also said the Prime Minister, in making the announcement to Parliament, promised it would be done by the time the country celebrated its 50th anniversary of Independence (August 31st).

He said this was also not going to be achieved. He said the fact that Ramlogan’s letter requested that Caricom give this issue its “kind and urgent consideration” confirms that the Prime Minister gave the country a deadline date (of August 31) for the implementation of this proposal.

Article 25 of the CCJ Agreement, which was signed by the United National Congress government in 2000, provides for a broad appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ (not a limited jurisdiction).

And according to Article 39, the only way any member could have escaped this provision was to have entered a reservation at the time that the treaty was acceded to. This country did not enter such a reservation.

Rowley said Ramlogan submitted to Caricom his request, along with a draft amendment of the agreement, seeking to amend the CCJ agreement to allow any contracting party to enter a reservation at any time.

The proposal was put to the Caricom Heads of Government, during their meeting in St Lucia last week, since all contracting parties must ratify any amendment. It was not accepted.

“What this Government told the people of Trinidad and Tobago is less than accurate and once again the Attorney General’s opinion has turned out to be wrong. … Our colleagues in Caricom view this as the Opposition does … an attempt by Government to play politics with the important matter of national and regional development … invoking Caricom and the Caribbean Court of Justice simply to change an embarrassing piece of news that was sure to make headlines (on the day that the Prime Minister announced the partial removal in Parliament) that she (the Prime Minister) had spent TT$800,000 on frivolities (travel expenses) for her sister, (Vidwatie Newton)”, Rowley said.

 

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