Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has criticised some individuals’ attempts to discredit the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s (CARPHA) accuracy with testing for COVID-19.
“There is confidence in the system managed by CARPHA. For us to try and subvert the confidence inside of that is dangerous not only for Trinidad and Tobago and the psyche of our population but for the entire Caribbean because CARPHA does the testing for the Caribbean,” Al-Rawi said during yesterday’s Ministry of Health virtual press conference on COVID-19 as he referenced a withdrawn emergency lawsuit filed by television host Ian Alleyne.
On Thursday, during a virtual hearing before Justice Ricky Rahim, Alleyne’s attorney Gerald Ramdeen withdrew the claim after reading affidavits filed by officials from the Ministry of Health.
Yesterday, the AG said the matter was unfortunate.
“Unfortunately, a matter came before the court. That matter was withdrawn yesterday by Mr Ramdeen, really because he accepted that his client had tested positive for COVID. In fact, when we reviewed the audiotapes of interviews by Mr Ramdeen and by his client, there was an admission that they already knew that even before they went to court,” Al-Rawi said.
Despite the withdrawal of the matter, Ramdeen said the State’s evidence raised issues with the COVID-19 testing process his client was subjected to while in quarantine at the Caura Hospital over the past three weeks. This claim was, however, described as “fundamentally false” by the state’s attorney, Reginald Armour SC.
Ramdeen’s claim was also addressed by the Attorney General.
“Now that the matter is finished, I can tell you that there is a very dangerous slant brought to that equation where the credibility of CARPHA testing was brought into issue. Contrary to blogging and activity on certain web pages, I want to state that Senior Counsel Mr Reginald Armour made it very clear to the honourable court yesterday (Thursday) that there was a dangerous exercise of subversion of the confidence of the CARPHA testing. The CARPHA testing has never proved to be wrong. In that particular case there was a simple transcription or human error point, which is normal,” Al-Rawi said.
The Attorney General, however, said that due to the “human error”, the automatic online service at Trinidad Public Health Lab, which was previously used to alert various hospitals about the status of COVID patients, was discarded for the time being.
“So because of the activity taken by the Opposition in challenging the use of technology which would have assisted everybody’s benefit, so we would have had a real-time understanding to be prepared … You can prepare discharge papers but await the final copy et cetera, we’ve had to close that down temporarily to relook at the system. So we’re entirely manual right now,” the AG said.
Al-Rawi also admitted that he penned the response to Ramdeen’s pre-action protocol letter on behalf of Alleyne, which identified both men as politically affiliated.
“That letter was squarely written by me and you’ll notice in the first and last paragraphs that I was at pains to protect the officer who I had asked to push that letter forward, by saying that this was done by the specific direction of the Attorney General. So I take ownership of that letter and its contents,” he said.
”And yes, I’d like to say that, look, politics is part of the equation. A government is politically appointed. Hopefully, you’ve noticed that we’ve been at pains to avoid certain things but in particular, the reference to the line that says it surely cannot be lost among the average observer that both persons, the attorney and the entity, the talk show host, have been sitting, have been active politicians for the opposition.”
He also stated that he wrote the letter so that he could claim wasted costs from Ramdeen.
“I drafted the letter myself and I put it there so that the population could be assured if the action was pursued and prematurely and ill-advised so that we reserve the right to seek a wasted court order against the attorney at law himself in the matter,” he said.