PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday April 30, 2014, CMC – It is a recurring call in Trinidad and Tobago. Opposition legislators and civil society groups demanding the resignation of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan ever since he came to office in 2010.
Now, Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley is promising to lead another street protest if Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar does not initiate an investigation “in the shortest time possible” into the Office of the Attorney General for its role in the employment of attorneys engaged in prison litigation matters.
“I am calling on the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago to immediately institute the appropriate enquiry into the matter and that he not be anywhere near the border of it,” Rowley said, adding that one of the attorneys at the centre of the allegations was, up to last week, still receiving multi-million-dollar briefs from the State.
“I am putting you on stand-by, if the Prime Minister does not accede to these requests in the shortest time possible,” Rowley told supporters, as he questioned the silence of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago on the matter.
Earlier this week, former solicitor general Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell insisted that she had never withdrawn her call for an investigation into the matter.
Donaldson-Honeywell had written to Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar on August 30 “to get action on an investigation into matters adversely affecting the State’s defence in prison litigation”.
She had expressed concern that the attorneys were engaged in an unethical business venture after “matters to be addressed concerning prison litigation were brought to my attention by concerned persons including the Prison Officers Association”.
Ramlogan in a statement issued by his office on Sunday, had produced a signed letter from Donaldson-Honeywell indicating that she had written Prime Minister Persad Bissessar withdrawing her call for an investigation.
Ramlogan was reacting to a Sunday Express newspaper which said the attorney general had first produced an unsigned letter indicating that Donaldson-Honeywell had penned the letter to the head of government.
Ramlogan in his statement, said the allegations made by Donaldson-Honeywell “were thoroughly investigated and there was no evidence whatsoever to support the allegations being made by the Express’ sister radio station Radio i95.5FM that there was collusion on the part of the attorneys in my ministry and those external attorneys representing prisoners to procure favourable settlements”.
He insisted that attorneys in his legal departments are independently appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission.
“They are professionals and have the utmost integrity. I therefore reject any allegation of collusion or wrongdoing. The procedure for settlement is such that it has inherent safeguards and checks and balances. Different attorneys are randomly assigned files and senior lawyers have to review and endorse any advice recommending settlement before it comes to the Solicitor General who must approve and recommend it to the Attorney General,” Ramlogan said.
But Rowley, speaking at a public meeting of his main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM), promised that the march would be similar to one held on November 2 last year, when thousands took to the streets in protest at the government’s decision to ensure the enactment of legislation that would have allowed financiers of the ruling United National Congress (UNC) to escape prosecution on fraud related charges related to the redevelopment of the Piarco International Airport.
Rowley gave Ramlogan a deadline to produce evidence that investigations had taken place into the concerns raised by the former solicitor general, adding “the Attorney General has a serious set of questions to answer”.
Rowley said “lives are at stake” in this issue, as prisoners are reacting to reports of their fellow inmates being brutalised by prison guards and that prison officers are being killed as result of a “criminal empire” being run out of the Office of the Attorney General.