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