Brown-Antoine has been Acting DPP since January and Gaspard is currently the sole Deputy DPP. They both recently applied for the substantive DPP post but Manning rejected them when the JLSC put forward their nominations, Newsday reported exclusively on September 10.
It is understood that senior prosecutor Wayne Rajbansie also applied for the DPP post and was interviewed by the JLSC. Sources yesterday said the JLSC did not submit his name for consideration to the Prime Minister. Newsday understands Rajbansie received a two-line letter from the JLSC, whose chairman is Chief Justice Ivor Archie, stating that it had decided to resume the search again for a DPP.
“This situation is unbearable,” said a source close to Rajbansie, who said the prosecutor was “seriously re-thinking his options as he can see no reason why he could not be appointed to the post.”
The substantive post has been vacant since former DPP Geoffrey Henderson became judge in January, when Brown-Antoine was appointed to act. However, as Brown-Antoine vacates office today with no word on who will be appointed to act as DPP, sources are very concerned on the impact the delay would have on the operations of the Office of the DPP and outstanding cases. This troubling situation has developed as the 2009/2010 law term opens today.
As she packed boxes at her office at Winsure Building, Port-of-Spain yesterday, Brown-Antoine said she did not know who would take over as acting DPP but expected to be informed before she leaves today.
“I have not heard anything. I hope I get something soon. In terms of seniority Mr Gaspard is the next in line. He is the only Deputy DPP at the moment. But, I have not received any correspondence from the Judicial and Legal Services Commission,” she said.
Gaspard and Rajbansie could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Although she is to be sworn in tomorrow as a High Court judge, Brown-Antoine said she would have preferred to stay with the Office of the DPP where she has worked for 20 years.
“It’s bittersweet. This has been my home for almost 20 years. I wanted to stay, that is why I applied for the position,” Brown-Antoine said. She said she submitted applications for the substantive post of DPP and High Court judge to the JLSC. She was successful in her application to be a judge.
Before his last veto of her nomination as DPP, the Prime Minister had previously rejected Brown-Antoine’s appointment as the Acting DPP on February 16, after she was on the job for six weeks. The Prime Minister relied on the Constitution to avoid having to make his reasons public. His decision prompted comments from all corners of the Judiciary and he subsequently validated her acting position.
Browne-Antoine said she was confident she would have been a competent DPP.
“I knew I could have done the job, and I wanted to remain in the position. However, I have always known that my appointment was not up to me, so I am prepared to accept that,” she said.
Brown-Antoine made it clear her appointment to the High Court by the JLSC was not given to her as a consolation for the DPP post.
“ I had applied for both positions so it cannot be a gift. I think that would be very disrespectful of the JLSC to think that they would just give you a gift. You have to qualify, you have to be competent for this position. I would certainly like to think that I applied, and I qualified. That’s why I was appointed as a judge.”
President George Maxwell Richards will swear in Brown-Antoine and two other judges, Andre Mon Desir and Ronnie Boodoosingh, at President’s House tomorrow.
Brown-Antoine stayed clear of questioning the JLSC’s delay on appointing an acting DPP.
“I don’t know what are their parameters. I think we have to know that before we can criticise them. We don’t know how they operate. There is a process, and I am sure that they are going through the process. ”
Brown-Antoine said she had been working with other officials to address staff shortages at the DPP’s office. “I know it was a short time that I have been sitting in the chair but I wish I could have done more about the staffing problem. I was working with the former AG (Bridgid Annisette-George) on that problem, and we were getting somewhere. Now that things have changed, the process may have to start all over again,” she said.
“Our problem is to retain persons at the senior level. Staff at the DPP’s office is very committed. I know that. To do this job you have to be committed. I want to encourage them no matter what the future holds to remain committed.”
Brown- Antoine said her new position as a judge may allow her to spend more time with her family but she will only be sure of that when she sits on the bench.