On Tuesday night, at a PNM political meeting, corner of Morvant Avenue and Lady Young Road, Morvant, Rowley said Hamel-Smith, who was acting President at the time of the Section 34 protest march that he led, “had found nothing out of the ordinary” after he had asked him to investigate the process leading to the proclamation of the law.
Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act of 2011 was proclaimed on August 31, 2012 on Cabinet’s advice.
The purpose of the Act, Rowley explained, was to eliminate the backlog in the courts and to treat with overcrowding in the prisons.
Rowley said when the People’s Partnership Government took office, people believed the problems would have been dealt with following an investigation done by criminologist Professor Ramesh Deosaran.
In spite of an additional $300 million spent on a jail at Santa Rosa, and the change of five national security ministers, Rowley said, “Conditions got worse.” He said as soon as the proclamation of Section 34 was made, two financiers of the United National Congress (UNC), Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, moved to the courts to be released from jail where they were held for criminal misconduct, and to escape the courts in TT and the Unites States. The two financiers got their benefits, Rowley said, “because the law existed for a few days and they went straight to the courts as though they knew it was coming.” The backlog of cases are now worse than before with some persons being in the prisons’ remand yards for over ten years, Rowley noted and spoke of an individual waiting more than 14 years, for their cases to be tried.
A copy of the Cabinet note authorising then President George Maxwell Richards to proclaim section 34, indicated to the President that the intent of the statute was to appoint masters of the Supreme Court. “That is one of the biggest lies ever put in a Cabinet note in Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said.
He said Cabinet duped the President, telling him to proclaim a clause, when in fact the Supreme Court of Judicature Act should have been amended instead.
Hamel-Smith cannot be trusted, Rowley said, when Parliament had to meet in emergency session to repeal Section 34, then justice minister Herbert Volney was fired, then attorney general Anand Ramlogan had questions to answer, and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was defending Ramlogan by saying he was not in the country at the time “it happened” and Hamel- Smith could see nothing out of the ordinary.
Noting that Hamel-Smith has launched his movement on the basis of procurement legislation and campaign finance with a partner being National Alliance for Reconstruction leader Carson Charles, the head of the National Infrastructure Development Company, Rowley questioned how it was that the cost of the Point Fortin Highway moved from $2.5 billion to $7.5 billion and how the budget for land acquisition moved from $475 million to $1 billion.
Hamel-Smith, a champion of campaign financing, could not tell the media when asked who was funding his party, Rowley said, “because his operation is funded by the UNC.” He claimed the UNC was now using the State’s budget to finance its campaign.
“As I speak to you, we have reports of Government ministers handing out cash in the East and in the deep South,” he said.