Lawyers press PM for answer on CJ issue

What’s the word, Prime Min­is­ter?

That’s the ques­tion sev­er­al se­nior le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers are ask­ing fol­low­ing a lack of re­sponse so far from Prime Min­is­ter Kei­th Row­ley on the Law As­so­ci­a­tion’s (LATT) re­port con­cern­ing al­le­ga­tions against Chief Jus­tice Ivor Archie.

So much so, a group of cit­i­zens has ap­proached se­nior coun­sel Is­rael Khan, mulling pur­suit of ju­di­cial re­view to en­sure a re­ply from the Prime Min­is­ter. They are dis­cussing whether that might be­come nec­es­sary with­in the next few weeks in the ab­sence of word from him.

Yes­ter­day was a month since LATT sub­mit­ted its re­port to the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice con­cern­ing al­le­ga­tions which have dogged Archie since 2017 in­to 2018. The sit­u­a­tion po­larised the Ju­di­cia­ry with some se­nior judges crit­i­cal of the sit­u­a­tion con­cern­ing Archie.

On De­cem­ber 11, some 150 As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers vot­ed to send LATT’s re­port to the Prime Min­is­ter for con­sid­er­a­tion whether there’s a need to trig­ger Sec­tion 137 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. This in­volves em­pan­elling a tri­bunal to probe any al­le­ga­tion and as­cer­tain if there is the ba­sis to re­move Archie or not. Thir­ty-two mem­bers vot­ed against.

“He must, there­fore, make up his mind. The mat­ter isn’t some­thing that could be ex­pect­ed to hang over the Chief Jus­tice’s head, have so­ci­ety re­main­ing in abeyance and lawyers con­tin­u­ing to be ap­pre­hen­sive,” said Khan.

“If he fails to in­di­cate any­thing, he’d have in­ad­ver­tent­ly un­der­mined the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­cia­ry, weak­en­ing it. He can­not leave the mat­ter in abeyance be­cause the Con­sti­tu­tion gives him sole pre­rog­a­tive to de­cide if to trig­ger the process. But I guess, an as­tute, saga­cious prime min­is­ter would want his Cab­i­net to en­dorse whether he’ll trig­ger 137 or not.”

Khan said he would wait two more weeks “No­body is telling him to trig­ger Sec­tion 137 (or not), but he should say some­thing on it and then we’ll see what we have to do.”

“The ball has been put very square­ly in­to the Prime Min­is­ter’s court and pru­dence and comi­ty re­quire he ac­knowl­edge re­ceipt of the re­port to give some in­di­ca­tion if he’s go­ing to con­sid­er it,” said Avory Sinanan SC.

“This is a na­tion­al is­sue. The pub­lic’s wait­ing with bat­ed breath to see if he’ll deal with the mat­ter in an af­fir­ma­tive or neg­a­tive way, give his rea­sons and deal with the mat­ter once and for all and move on,” he said.

Crim­i­nal de­fence at­tor­ney Wayne Sturge said, “It is a cause of grave con­cern that the PM hasn’t act­ed on LATT’s re­port which has been sent to him over a month ago, par­tic­u­lar­ly since he’s sur­round­ed by so many lawyers who hold them­selves out as com­pe­tent.”

“I find it hard to be­lieve that he couldn’t find an hour or two to meet with his At­tor­ney Gen­er­al and Min­is­ter Stu­art Young, as­sum­ing he read the re­port and fur­ther as­sum­ing that he would have giv­en both Al-Rawi and Young a copy for their pe­rusal. The is­sue is a sim­ple one, what was so press­ing in the last month? It seems as though Pow­er­Point pol­i­tick­ing and pan yard con­ver­sa­tions were more im­por­tant than this con­sti­tu­tion­al is­sue. It may even sug­gest he has very lit­tle re­spect for the Law As­so­ci­a­tion.”

At­tor­ney Pa­tri­cia Dindyal said while she un­der­stood the Prime Min­is­ter re­ceived the re­port dur­ing the Christ­mas pe­ri­od and may have been busy, cour­tesy re­quired some ac­knowl­edge­ment of sub­mis­sion, “Sun­day (yes­ter­day) would be a month since it was sent.”

Sources close to Archie felt if the Prime Min­is­ter felt the al­le­ga­tions were no more than gos­sip, he didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have to re­spond. Nor did they feel LATT’s re­port is cloud­ing Archie’s po­si­tion or the Ju­di­cia­ry “since it’s sim­ply a let­ter from cer­tain peo­ple say­ing cer­tain things...LATT can’t make him do some­thing. It’s up to the PM to de­cide what he wants to do.

- by Gail Alexander

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