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Ramesh: They must resign or be removed
Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj has called for the resignation of Communication Minister Vasant Bharath, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal and Labour Minister Errol Mc Leod in the wake of more damning allegations of witness tampering. He is also calling on acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams to expand the police investigation into allegations against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan to include the three ministers.
At present Ramlogan is under investigation for allegedly attempting to pervert the course of justice for allegedly asking director of Police Complaints Authority (PCA) David West to withdraw his witness statement in his (Ramlogan’s) lawsuit against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.
Maharaj made the call in response to newspaper reports yesterday that former national security minister Gary Griffith, who is a witness in the investigation, had reported Bharath to the police for allegedly trying to influence him to keep quiet in the ongoing witness tampering saga. Maharaj, commenting on this development, said, “If what I read in the newspapers are true, there is an obligation for the three ministers of government to offer their resignations to the Prime Minster.”
He said if they do not do resign it is left to the Prime Minister to take action and “in any event there is a firm duty on the acting Police Commissioner to announce that the probe would be extended to cover these three ministers.” Griffith, according to media reports, allegedly said in his statement to police that Mc Leod and Moonilal were present in the Cabinet meeting when Bharath allegedly tried to exert pressure on him.
Maharaj, who spoke during a media conference yesterday at his law chambers on Irving Street, San Fernando, said he is not assigning guilt, but “on the basis of equality before the law” they must resign or be removed. He said at the end of the day they (all three) may, with due process of law, be acquitted.
“But that is not the issue, the issue is should there be over the head of a ministry over the heads of the office of a ministry the serious allegation that the holder of that office may have committed an offence?” he said. While Maharaj said an offence may or may not have been committed “there is an allegation and if there is such an allegation then the minister has a duty to resign and if he does not resign, under our Constitution the Prime Minister takes full responsibility for all actions.”
Maharaj said it appears that under this government the Prime Minister is trying to distance herself from the cabinet. “If there is, under the Constitution of T&T a corrupt government, then every member of the cabinet is collectively responsible for that. If there is an honest government then every member of the cabinet is responsible for that,” he added.
Maharaj said Persad-Bissessar had treated Griffith unfairly and undermined and subverted the values of integrity in public office and the rule of law by putting West, Griffith and Rowley in the same category as Ramlogan. He questioned why Persad-Bissessar took some five days to act on the allegations against Ramlogan. Maharaj also took issue with last Monday’s cabinet reshuffle.
He said, “This is a time, in the light of what has happened, for the people to be told that elections are due in the month of May and the Government is going to call general election.” “The Government should have announced a date for election,” he added. Maharaj said under the conditions set out in the PCA Act the President cannot revoke West’s appointment, as called for by Persad-Bissessar, and it would be an error of law to remove him.
He also reminded Carmona that although the President is immune from court action “it does not prevent a public interest litigation being filed for judicial review by any member of the public or any group if the President revokes that appointment because it will be an error of law.”
The courts have held, he explained, that although the Constitution gives the President personal immunity “it does not mean that his decisions are immune from judicial review if they are outside the Constitution or outside the law.”
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