Kamla welcomes Justice Volney

However, Volney’s decision to vacate the bench to become a candidate for the opposition drew sharp criticism from Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who also accused the UNC of breaching the principles of the separation of the powers of the State and the Judiciary.

The former outspoken High Court judge’s entry into politics became the central talking point on the hustings of the UNC and PNM parties which held respective public meetings in San Juan and Penal last night.

Yesterday, Volney, who has openly criticised the PNM government on several matters such as inadequate wages paid to Legal Aid attorneys, submitted his resignation to Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

In his letter of resignation, Volney said he had been “concerned about the absence of any clear direction by the Government with regard to pension reform for persons who have spent all their life in public service, including our judges.” He also suggested the independence of the Judiciary was under threat.

“I also have serious doubt that the Government of the day will maintain a respect for the independence of the Judiciary with the necessary minimum logic and budgetary support required to ensure that it may effectively deliver on its constitutional remit,” Volney wrote in his letter, which was also forwarded to President George Maxwell Richards.

Volney said as a judge he was unable to speak out on the “ineptitude of governance to effect systematic change to matters that have left the administration of criminal justice in shambles.”

Wanting the freedom to do so and not bring his office into disrepute, Volney said he had decided to resign.

In an immediate response the Chief Justice issued a statement to the media, confirming Volney’s resignation and said he had called the former judge to a meeting after hearing persistent reports that he would be joining a political party.

Last night, Persad-Bissessar, in her address to supporters, triumphantly announced what Volney had done.

“Justice Herbert Volney resigned as a judge of the Supreme Court to contest the general election as a UNC candidate,” she said as the crowd cheered.

Volney’s move, she said, was made at a professional sacrifice and showed how much citizens had become disenchanted with the PNM government.

“Imagine what it took for him to leave behind his career as a judge. He will be leaving all his years of study. He may open himself to ridicule simply because Justice Volney chose to put Trinidad and Tobago before his own needs. It shows a desperate need to remove Mr Manning from office. Even members of the Judiciary are standing up for their country.”

However, Manning demanded answers on how long Volney had been in negotiations with the UNC, while he was a sitting judge. He also said Volney was being observed by “security forces” for some time, but did not elaborate, except to point out that members of the Judiciary are exempt from filing declarations of their assets with the Integrity Commission.

“Security forces in this country have had an interest in the activities of Volney for quite some time,” Manning said.

The Prime Minister also noted the recent resignation of former senior magistrate Ramraj Harripersad to offer himself as a candidate to the UNC, raising concerns about the separation of powers of the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary which he said was necessary in a democracy.

“A week ago it was announced that a senior magistrate was going up to be a candidate for the UNC and...my dear friends, we are seeing this thing again...(Volney is) a judge of the high court today and a UNC candidate tomorrow.”

Referring to both Volney and Harripersad, Manning claimed discussions had taken place while they were active members of the Judiciary.

“I ask you how long have those discussions been going on, how long? How long has there been interference in the Judiciary by the UNC in regards to the separation of powers to undermine the independence of the Judiciary and the democracy of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

He suggested the former judge and magistrate may have been influenced by the opposition in decisions they made while presiding over cases.

“What decisions of these two honourable gentlemen...what decisions have been influenced by the UNC, to what extent have they been influenced while on the bench that have been in favour of the UNC, supporters, financiers? This has come to light, this is what we are seeing.

Earlier in his statement, the Chief Justice sought to assure that the Judiciary remained free of political influence.

See page 7


"Kamla welcomes Justice Volney"

More in this section