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No place for politics in Law Association: Armour to keep body impartial
Politics has no place in the Law Association and president-elect Reginald Armour is vowing to ensure it remains that way. As Armour readies himself to take up the mantel of leadership next week, he says he is determined to fiercely maintain the independence of the association and remove any doubt about its impartiality. “There will be no politics in the Law Association. I do not intend to allow partisan national politics to affect or to impact the Law Association. We are going to call a spade a spade and who the cap fits we will pull the string,” Armour told the T&T Guardian.
Armour, who returned to T&T on Thursday from the UK, after a successful appearance before the Privy Council, said he was eager to start reforming the image of the association. He will be formally installed as president next week when the association’s election results are published in the Gazette. At present, former association head Jairam Seenath, SC, remains in charge. Armour explained that the newly-elected council has scheduled its first meeting for April 14.
The senior counsel, a married father of two, in his first sit down interview since his victory at the association’s elections two Fridays ago, said, “I think it is important that we, myself and the council, make every effort that we can to put the stamp on the council and the Law Association as being non-partisan.” He said in his tenure he intends to return the association to its position of prominence on issues of national importance.
In fact, he explained, it was this desire to reshape the image of the association that influenced his decision to withdraw himself as lead counsel for People’s National Movement (PNM) leader Dr Keith Rowley. “I have been listening to people talking to me about the image of the Law Association and the need for the Law Association to re-establish itself, to command the public’s respect and I thought about (that),” he said.
Armour maintained that although he did not accept there was a conflict of interest in his representing any particular client and his being the association’s president generally, he still believed that he had to withdraw. He said he wanted to “take in front” before anyone accused the council of being influenced by somebody who is Rowley’s lawyer.
“I had to be sensitive to the possibility, particularly at a time when we are going into an election season, to the possibility that notwithstanding the best efforts of the council I am leading and the completely non-partisan approach to what may be controversial issues, the fact that I continued to be counsel for Dr Rowley could detract from the work the council does and would diminish (that) non-partisan work,” he said.
AG post a mere rumour
A mere three days after successfully capturing 322 votes in the association’s elections, Armour withdrew from Rowley’s defence team in a defamation case brought against Rowley by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan. Armour said he was heartened by the positive responses he received from senior members of the law fraternity, including former association president Martin Daly, who commended him for withdrawing from the matter.
Armour declined to comment on allegations of ethical breaches levelled against attorney Faris Al-Rawi, who was taken to task for being both witness and instructing attorney in the Rowley matter. The senior counsel, however, said he stood by his advice to the PNM leader in the matter that Al-Rawi did nothing wrong. However, he added, “It is something that may come before the council and I would not want to pre-empt what the council may say or may not say.”
He also dismissed rumours he has been tipped to be attorney general should the PNM win the 2015 general elections. “I have not heard that, I have not been asked. I have not heard that before and if I am asked the answer is No. No, I am not tipped to be AG,” Armour declared.
Plans for Association
Armour, who has been practising law for nearly 34 years and began under the tutelage of Selby Wooding, QC; Trevor Lee, SC; Allan Alexander, SC; and Frank Solomon, SC, said he intends to educate younger lawyers. He plans to pay courtesy calls on the Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Attorney General Garvin Nicholas to address some of the members’ concerns drawn to his attention.
He also intends to schedule meetings with members in Tobago, San Fernando, and other parts of Trinidad, and wants to intended to revamp the Bench and Bar Committee, which was set up to allow judges and attorneys to voice concerns and address pertinent legal issues. Armour said he wanted the association to become the voice for judges who were suffering from poor working conditions and salaries, since they are constitutionally restricted from taking protest action.
He also wants to ensure the Legislative Review Committee becomes more proactive in reviewing, commenting on and advising parliamentarians about bills before Parliament. He said of particular concern was the Bail (Amendment) Bill, which removed the granting of bail for certain offences. Armour said the previous council provided him with a copy of “a very informed draft comment” on the amendment, which will be taken to the Attorney General for review.
“The Law Association will be finalising those comments to go to the Attorney General next week and the Law Association objects strongly to the Bail Amendment Bill in its present form and our comments would be going through to the AG, hopefully as soon as during the course of next week,” he said.
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