The Association yesterday issued a release describing comments made by Jeremie in Parliament last week over the judge as “wrong in law”.
Jeremie had criticised Justice Rajendra Narine – who was last week appointed a Justice of Appeal – for referring a controversial affidavit sworn by Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Abu Bakr to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and to the Acting Police Commissioner. He argued that that referral was not within the judge’s powers as the affidavit had been struck out of the proceedings by the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council.
But in its release yesterday, the Association noted that while the affidavit – which alleged an oral deal between Bakr and Prime Minister Patrick Manning in relation to the 2002 General Election – was struck out, it was wrong for the Attorney General to suggest that the effect of this was that Narine could not have referred the matter to the authorities.
“If the Attorney General had a difficulty with the direction of (then) Mr Justice Narine it was certainly open to him, as a party to the proceedings, to appeal against that direction to the Court of Appeal,” the release, signed by Association President Martin Daly SC, noted. “To opt instead to level a public rebuke of the Judge was wrong and had the tendency to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
“It is our considered view that the Attorney General was wrong in law…to suggest to the House that Mr Justice Narine (as he then was) had defied the order of the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council. While the affidavit in question had been struck out and removed from the record, that did not preclude the Learned Judge, if he thought necessary, from dealing with it in the way that he did.”
Citing the British case of Midland Bank Trust v Green, Daly continued, “Mr Justice Narine (as he then was) had jurisdiction to have directed that the contents of the affidavit be referred to the Commissioner and the DPP. Indeed to do otherwise would arguably be contrary to the role of a judge as a guardian of the rule of law.” The body also noted that while Jeremie made a statement on the issue last Monday in Parliament, generally, under the Standing Order 36 (10), “members of Parliament are prohibited from criticising judges” unless a motion is moved for that purpose.
In response, Jeremie yesterday said, “All I will say is that I have read the comments and they are misconceived and ill-informed.” He would not elaborate. However, late yesterday the PNM’s Public Relations Officer Jerry Narace issued an emailed, unsigned press release attacking the Association both for its comments relating to Jeremie and previous comments made by Daly relating to the Prime Minister’s vetoing of Justice Carla Brown-Antoine for the post of Director of Public Prosecutions.
“The PNM notes with concern recent developments which have seen the hijacking of the once venerable Law Association by a bunch of political opportunists bent on engaging the duly elected Government in political warfare,” the release, emailed by PNM staff member Tricia Harripaul and headed “PNM Condemns Political Law Association” reads:
“The PNM is… not surprised that the Law Association, which under its current leadership is now openly hostile to the PNM and its leader, continues to parrot positions indistinguishable from that of the Opposition parties.
“The PNM has every confidence that the discerning public will recognise the gamesmanship being employed by the political masqueraders and will reject them as it has consistently rejected all previous masqueraders brave enough to take off their masks or legal robes to engage in overt political activity.
“Given the knee jerk hostility of the Law Association leadership to the PNM and its leader, it came as no surprise that the Association would find some way to justify the extra-legal intervention of now Appeal Court Judge Rajendra Narine in using an affidavit that had been struck out by superior courts. While not entirely unexpected, the attempt to attack the Honourable Attorney General for exposing Justice Narine’s legal adventurism, is none the less deplorable.”
“In arrogantly seeking to challenge the right of politicians to speak on legal matters, the Law Association has also bordered on contempt of Parliament,” the party claimed, saying Jeremie’s statement in Parliament was “approved by the Speaker”.
In its release yesterday, the Law Association noted that it was unwise to make what it termed “ill-considered remarks” against a sitting judge. “The Council wishes to make it clear that it deplores ill-considered remarks against any sitting Judge,” the Association also noted. Daly had been erroneously reported in yesterday’s paper as criticising Narine. Without naming her, the body also noted that Justice Jean Permanand, a sitting member of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission made public comments critical of Narine, and criticised this.
The sparring between the PNM and the Association came after a week dominated by tensions between the executive arm of the State and the judiciary, tensions which have boiled over publically.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice Ivor Archie raised alarms over the Government’s Working Document on Constitutional Reform, noting that its proposals would strip the Judiciary of its independence. The comments provoked the Government to defend the document and to invite the sitting Chief Justice to be consulted. Daly, in comments made on Friday, supported Archie’s remarks. In its release, the PNM once more defended the Working Document as well as a controversial plan for a Ministry of Justice.
“The PNM also wishes to state its unequivocal support of the decision of its leader, Prime Minister, the Honourable Patrick Manning, to provide information based on the Working Paper on Constitutional Reform for discussion and full participation by all stakeholders,” the release read. “The PNM supports any approach which will make an appropriate intervention to improve the justice delivery system in Trinidad and Tobago, even if it includes a Ministry of Justice.”