By Andre Bagoo Saturday, March 17 2007

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Kenneth Lalla ...
Kenneth Lalla ...

DID PRIME Minister Patrick Manning intend to impeach Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma while the criminal proceedings against him were still pending when he wrote him on February 21? Was Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls clearing the way for the Prime Minister to invoke Section 137 since February 13 when he wrote the Director of Public Prosecutions asking that the criminal charges be stayed? Is the Chief Magistrates’ decision not to be cross-examined and the Prime Ministers’ invocation of Section 137 coincidental?

These are the questions being raised by attorney Kenneth Lalla SC who in a letter to the press concluded that, “The events and circumstances leading to the discontinuation of the criminal charge against Sharma and the proposed institution of impeachment proceedings against him would appear to be fraught with elements of inconsistencies.”

Speaking with Newsday from his home yesterday morning, Lalla, who is the former chairman of the Public Service Commission; the Police Service Commission; the Defence Force Commission Board as well as a former DLP MP for Couva, and author of the textbook The Public Service and Service Commissions, said that in the true Westminister system of governance the current imbroglio would have already resulted in the resignations of those of high-office involved.

Lalla said that a criminal charge should never have been brought against Sharma in the first place because the appropriate step to take under the Constitution was the impeachment proceedings under Section 137. Dealing with the Prime Minister’s response to this argument: that the Section 137 had been blocked by Sharma’s attorneys, Lalla said that notwithstanding this, the 137 proceedings was the proper action to be taken and a criminal charge was inappropriate.

In any event, he pointed out, there is nothing now to prevent Sharma from once more blocking the 137 proceedings.

“What’s the point really?” he asked. “Having embarrassed this man for one whole year (why) jump from one thing to another?”

Lalla also criticised the actions of Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls in derailing the criminal inquiry. He said that despite the fact that Mc Nicolls never took his allegations directly to the police, he could still face a charge of wasting police time.

“He made an allegation which was referred to the police. He did not have to wait until this time to say he would testify before the proper forum (constitutional proceedings).”

In his four page letter, which will be published in full by Newsday on Sunday, Lalla further questions the role of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the whole affair criticising how the events were allowed to unfold on March 5, the day the charge of attempting to pervert the course of public justice was dropped. “Why did the DPP permit Mc Nicolls to dictate the determination of this trial? (It) is not clear but that decision would appear to be ... open to scrutiny”

“One would have expected that... the prosecution would have allowed Mc Nicolls to at least take the oath and then indicate to the court that he did not wish to give...further evidence in the matter. However, for whatever reason the prosecution pre-empted him and provided him with a shield much to the consternation of the defence and then informed the court that the prosecution would be proceeding no further with the matter.”

But sources from the Office of the DPP yesterday responded to this by saying that it would have made “no sense” to allow Mc Nicolls to take the oath if he was unwilling to testify, as he would have been simply declared a hostile witness and the case would have collapsed in any event. Pointing to the recent failed trial of Jamaat leader Yasin Abu Bakr, they said that to have a repeat of this kind of thing would have simply furthered the damage already done to the image of the integrity of the criminal justice system.

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