25 Mar 2015

Thieves, Dogs, Misfits and Donkeys

There are several things upon which my attention was drawn today.

The first is the continuing scandal of exorbitant fees from the Office of the Attorney General while headed by Anand Ramlogan. Two former Attorney Generals, John Jeremie and Ramesh L. Maharaj have come out in the open requesting a probe into "the prima facie case for financial impropriety", which I pointed out on 16 March.

“As far as I can recall my allocation for legal fees was about $25 million.” [John Jeremie]

Since 2008 or thereabouts, this blog has been lamenting on the strangulation of the entire judiciary for want of funds. Given that the spending spree undertaken by the previous Attorney General Anand Ramlogan ranges from an estimated $300 million to “what could potentially be “close to a billion dollars””, the impact of this mischief is equivalent to using a sledgehammer to crush a peanut, especially in light that in 2009 the entire judiciary was allocated the sum of $49 million for the entire year!

The second situation to catch my attention was the headline "pitbull mauls tot". Just recently I had cause to return to this topic, due to the fact that attacks by dangerous dogs are far more prevalent on the Rock than in England. Given that the Dangerous Dogs Act has been partially claimed in Trinidad and Tobago, the law is now that injury caused by a dangerous dog is punishable by a fine of $100,000 and 5 years imprisonment to the owner of said dog, if the dog unreasonably injures someone. I'm waiting to see if the dunceys take any action in this matter.

Related the dunceys taking action, I wonder if their uber-efficiency applies only to roadblocks or will continue in other areas of law enforcement. Even the public information officer of the TTPS, Insp Wayne Mystar said, " How in God’s name can you hold a country to ransom because of the inefficiencies of a group of misfits who cannot negotiate on behalf of its members?"

At least this time it is not a foreigner pointing out the obvious! It’s one of their own…

22 Mar 2015

Open Pipeline from Office of Attorney General

The Office of Attorney General is not without controversy. I think every single Attorney General in my memory, beginning from Selwyn Richardson to John Jeremie, has had fingers pointed at them for abuse of office and ties to corruption. None however seems to be as mired in controversy as ex-Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.

The ex-Attorney General has a list of "transgressions" that is becoming longer and longer with each passing day, as new revelations are exposed. Sadly, many of these are connected with opening the coffers of the State to friends within the legal system, using his office as the conduit or open pipeline to financial gain for his cronies.

One aspect of this was the granting of legal briefs to friends/cronies from the office of the Attorney General, bypassing the Office of the State Solicitor General. Yet another aspect was his involvement in the "prison gate" of fear in which his office was the respondent of multiple suits from prisoners who claimed they received injuries from officials of the state (prisons officers and police officers), and where "copying and pasting" were done in multiple cases by two friends of his, and where private files from the Supreme Court appeared at the private office of one of his friends. And now a third aspect has been revealed.

The Office of the Attorney General retained the services of a company with no legal expertise among its directors to give advice relating to mutual legal assistance by the United States of America.

The company, Tiger Capital Ltd, was paid $1,750,000 on Novembe­r 18, 2014, for advice, despite having no legal expertise.

The company’s directors are a building contractor, proprietor and financial consultant.

According to the article, Tiger Capital Ltd has a fake address, no staff, no legal expertise, has no phones and is apparently unreachable.

Given that one of the policies of the ex-Attorney General was to file civil suits (with the obvious approval of his Prime Minister) and going after those whom he considered to have misused resources of the State, I wonder if any civil suit will be filed against him for what appears to be blatant nepotism? I highly doubt it. After all, it's just normal part of the culture, living life on a small rock.

21 Mar 2015

Jumbie’s First Law strikes Again!!

Joint Trade Union Movement leader Ancel Roget yesterday also told the Express that a national day of prayer and fast is scheduled for March 27 at the Brian Lara Promenade, Port of Spain, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will be done for the state of the country the high levels of corruption,  bad governance and the state of wage negotiations, he said. 

When I read the above, I almost bawl like 40 Tarzans. Almost, but not quite.

Yuh see, Trinibagonians have been praying for XYZ for long, long time. Dey pray for everything. Dey pray for rain, dey pray for sun. Dey pray West Indies tuh win in de cricket, dey pray de Govament lose election, dey pray dey party win election, dey pray for more money, dey pray to win de lotto, dey pray de chile pass SEA, dey pray de chile win scholarship, dey pray de neighbour have mo’ bad luck than dem… yuh know, prayers fuh every hill and mountain life throws at dem…

As I said before:

Allyuh praying for decades, day in, day out, night time too. Allyuh praying while getting kidnapped, robbed, beaten, chopped, raped, murdered in all kinda styles and fashion, and crime still going up... but allyuh still seeing that as the solution to crime?!

Allyuh praying before and after too. Allyuh praying at funerals, in churches, mosques, gurdwaras, in taxis, by de roadside, in canefields, ricefields, lagoon, city, streets, allyuh wearing white and lying on de road, allyuh meeting by people house to pray...

I cyah even remember the many ways allyuh praying... and so far I see no evidence even 1 prayer, whether from child, woman, man, sadhu, priest, imam, rabbi, teacher, police, minister,.... worked.

NOT ONE!!

I know, Jumbie’s First Law, ent? But I eh have no Holy Aloes tuh pray to anymore. So I guess people go jess remain dotish till dey dead.

I well understand some ah allyuh so weak-minded that allyuh cyah function unless allyuh believe some higher power watching over allyuh and taking de flak for de shit allyuh does do and then beg 'forgiveness'. But trust meh on this one - no bad luck go come to yuh... GOD too busy listening to Pa-trick, Pastor Cuffie, Sat Maharaj and benny Hinn dem to take yuh seriously. If you ent believe meh, examine when last you had a prayer come true.

As far as dotishness go, prayer hard to beat…

19 Mar 2015

Looking Back to even before my time

Trinidad, pre-Independence – 1938. Absolutely fascinating. I notice behaviour was much more docile in public under the ‘colonial masters’ than now.

17 Mar 2015

Jumbie's fourth law - stupidity has no shame

Material non-disclosure is not a concept that is foreign to members of the legal profession. As lawyers we are trained to appreciate the importance of making full disclosure to the court when seeking to convince a court to exercise its discretion in our client’s favour.

So any junior lawyer would know that in applying for an ex-parte injunction one must advise the client and insist that she not withhold material facts from the court. To do so would be unfair to the other side and would therefore be an abuse of the court’s process. To allow the court to exercise its discretion in your favour when there are material, adverse facts that you have not disclosed is conduct that is frowned upon and would be met by judicial sanction.

Similarly, in making an application for leave for judicial review a lawyer knows that he must disclose all material facts to the court since to not do so is to abuse the court’s process and to risk causing cause embarrassment to the judge of the court.

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is an important institution to our country and our citizens. The authority stands as a buffer between citizens and the police and the abuse power by the latter. In our small nation there is always the potential for the few bad apples in the Police Service to abuse their powers. We are now on the verge of another general election. There is the potential for the few bad apples in the Police Service to abuse their power by displaying political bias.

There is no doubt that this unfortunate reality was in the minds of the drafters of the Police Complaints Authority Act. This is seen from Section 8 disqualification of politicians from being members of the PCA. This is also seen from Section 18 assertion of the PCA’s independence of all pubic functionaries (except certain limited constitutional exceptions). The PCA Act contemplates a public body that is independent and that is perceived to be above politics.

With all this in mind, it is mind boggling (or maybe not) that Mr West remains in office to this day and that his action has been supported by some senior members of the legal profession.

Various persons have commented on the need, or lack thereof for Mr West to have informed the President that subsequent to his appointment as head of the independent and important PCA, he, Mr West, intended to be a witness for the Leader of the Opposition in a case against the Attorney General.

One commentator has speculated that maybe Mr West made full disclosure to the President and the President ignored the effect of same. I doubt that any reasonable person attaches weight to such speculation. 

Another commentator has opined that Mr West cannot be removed from office since he has not engaged in misconduct that triggers Section 13 of the PCA (dealing with revocation of the PCA chairman’s appointment). I beg to differ. Section 13 is irrelevant in deciding whether the President’s original decision to appoint was valid or is void as a result of Mr West’s material non-disclosure.

The argument is similar to that raised in the 2013 English case of Dr Hans-Christian Raabe v Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Mr West’s intention to be a witness for the Leader of the Opposition in the matter against the Attorney General was bound to cause embarrassment and bring disrepute to his office. Anyone doubting that should consider whether a victim of police brutality by a police officer showing a PNM bias could feel comfortable in having Mr West preside over his complaint. MrWest’s decision to be a witness is relevant to the President’s original decision to appoint. If Mr West is guilty of material non-disclosure, the President is entitled to revoke his appointment.

As a lawyer of many years standing Mr West should have known better. By all means be a witness is whatever case you so choose, but have concern for the independence of your office. The President must not allow his office to be tainted by one who should have known better.             

Larry Lalla is an attorney at law [http://www.trinidadexpress.com/commentaries/West-on-shaky-ground-296506711.html]

I have often pointed out to the absolute truth of Jumbie's First Law: When you think dotishness cannot get worse, someone will come along to prove it can.

So this morning, I spotted that article quoted above (in green) by Larry Lalla, and it seems to me that when a person qualifies as an attorney at law, sense flies out of the window. I have never read anything (okay, almost anything) as stupid as the above.

The author makes several missteps in his thinking, much like other members of the People's Partnership government. He seems to forget what the role of a witness is, so I will remind him. The following are taken from the website of the Crown Prosecution Service in England (CPS).

  1. It isn't personal
  2. You are not on trial
  3. The law in England and Wales (also Trinidad and Tobago) is based on the idea that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty
By being a witness, David West is not taking any side either for or against the AG or alternatively Keith Rowley. This was adequately dealt with by senior counsel Martin Daly:

“However I am satisfied that it is wholly wrong to attack West because he is a witness in that case pending before the High Court or to seek his removal on that ground from the office of Director of the Police Complaints Authority,” he said.

Daly said in order to understand “the fallacy” contained in the request for West to step down because he gave a witness statement it was essential to understand what a witness statement was.

“A witness statement is not a personal recommendation or statement of opinion (unless given by an expert such as a scientist or valuator). It is a statement of facts relating to matters in dispute which the witness asserts are true,” he said.

“It is not a statement given in support of the litigant as a person or in support of whatever political or other views the litigant may have. Any political colour inserted in such a statement is likely to be struck out by the court,” Daly stated.

I am often amazed that people like Larry Lala do not appear to be fazed/embarrassed by airing their stupidity for the whole world to see. That might bring me to Jumbie's Fourth Law: Stupidity has no shame.