Archie’s speech made the front-pages of all the daily newspapers and was rebroadcast on at least one radio station yesterday. Media houses were bombarded with callers and with statements faxed in by various public organisations.

Addressing the opening of the law term on Wednesday, Archie had said the document has “disturbing implications for judicial independence”, as he championed the ideal of the separation of powers to prevent tyranny. The document was created by a round table after public consultations were held on a previous draft created by former president Sir Ellis Clarke, although Prime Minister Patrick Manning claimed to not be its author.

Sir Ellis yesterday distanced himself from the latest developments concerning criticisms of the controversial working document made by Archie. “I haven’t read them,” Clarke said of the Chief Justice’s (CJ) remarks. “I am not involved in any of these things I am keeping far from it.” Despite the perception that the roundtable, which included government ministers such as Minister of Legal Affairs Peter Taylor and former attorney general Bridgid Annisette-George, had drafted the document, Clarke disowned it earlier this year after it was tabled in Parliament. In an interview with Newsday he said, “I disown it completely.”

In his address, Archie also lamented the “crippling effect” of cuts in funding to the development allocation of the Judiciary, saying the 2010 Budget only gave $42 million, out of the $393 million requested to the detriment of the planned roll-out of the Family Court.

Warning against the Judiciary losing its independence to the planned Ministry of Justice, he had said, “Outside of the construction of buildings..., it is difficult to think of any other aspect of court administration that could be safely devolved from the Judiciary without impinging on its independence.”

Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira, at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, promised a statement would be issued today in reply to Archie’s remarks. Information Minister Neil Parsanlal added that a Cabinet team of three ministers was working on a response. Reports are that Attorney General John Jeremie headed the team. On Wednesday, Jeremie described Archie’s speech, in which the CJ said the document should be put to the vote implying either a general election or referendum, as “interesting and thought- provoking”.

Nunez-Tesheira yesterday told reporters she had come to the post-Cabinet briefing to specifically respond to Archie’s complaint about the allocation to the Judiciary.

She downplayed the cuts by saying all government ministries had suffered likewise in the Budget. Saying this is a challenging year for Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere, Nunez- Tesheira said, “In terms of our budgetary allocation, each ministry on average got no more than 15 percent of their request under the capital programme.” She said that of an estimated $34 billion requested for all capital programmes, only $7 billion has actually been allocated. These sums would be given under the Public Sector Investment Programme via the Consolidated Fund and Infrastructure Development Fund. Regarding the Family Court, she said there is currently only a roll-out of the court in Port-of- Spain which has been allocated $13 million out of a request for $28 million.

“As we do with all ministries and all requests, certainly it is subject to review, a mid-term review, if and when the need arises through the course of the fiscal year,” she said.

New projects, such as family courts in San Fernando, Tabaquite and Tobago, would now depend on the availability of funds, she also said. Later she brushed off a reporter’s suggestion that the Judiciary should be treated better than a ministry which is an arm of the Executive.

Asked what she thought of Archie’s greater concern about a threat to the independence of the Judiciary, Nunez-Tesheira said, “By tomorrow (today) a statement will be issued on the Chief Jusice’s comments. There is the intention, and I believe by tomorrow (today), a statement will be issued with regards to the comments of the honourable Chief Justice at the opening of the law term. That is beyond my remit.”

Yesterday Industrial Court president, Cecil Bernard, endorsed Archie’s concerns by lamenting the draft constitution’s silence on the future of the Industrial Court. (See page 13A)

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce also issued a strong media statement, titled, “Judicial funding a must.” The chamber said it was extremely concerned the Judiciary’s budget has been cut to 12 percent of its original request.

“At a time when the country’s crime situation is spiralling, with the media reporting 15 murders in the past few days, the need for improvements in the judicial system in order to deliver swift justice is extremely urgent.”

The chamber however supported reform of the Judiciary which it said, “needs to be properly funded to be effective, relevant and capable, to enable it to respond to the demands placed on (it) at this critical time.”

The budget cuts, said the chamber, would be an impediment in the war against crime. “It is our hope that the Government reconsiders its position with respect to its allocation of funds to the Judiciary, as the lives of law-abiding citizens depend on it.”

A road-safety NGO also backed Archie. “Arrive Alive stands firmly behind the CJ in his call to maintain the independence of the Judiciary and also joins him in questioning the Judiciary’s recent allocation”. In a statement, the NGO supported a strong, efficient and independent Judiciary as critical to uphold law and order in a society. “As such it must remain independent and be properly funded so as to effectively manage its operations.”

Arrive Alive lamented that the Judiciary had got just 12 percent of the sum requested. “How is the Judiciary expected to manage its affairs?” asked Arrive Alive. “Given the current levels of crime and lawlessness in this country, we are calling upon the Government to please explain their recent budget decision and to act now in providing the necessary resources to both police and the Judiciary so that we can move towards becoming a safe and secure TT.” Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner also described the reduced allocation as “severe and ruthless” and an injustice to the Judiciary. He said, “A Government which suspends funds to its Judiciary cannot be serious about crime and justice.”

Warner lamented the high crime-rate and large backlog of court-cases. He said, “Instead of news that the court services would be expanded, this Government has reduced funding to the Judiciary which would no doubt cripple the effectiveness and delivery of justice.”

Warner contrasted the budget cuts with the allocation of $116 million for foreign service buildings to serve just a few thousand staff members.



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