By Caribbean News Now contributor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Trinidad and Tobago's justice minister, Herbert Volney, was fired on Thursday for deceiving the cabinet over a controversial law that could allow charges to be dropped against more than a dozen people facing corruption allegations.
In a televised national address on Thursday night, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Volney had deceived the government by assuring the cabinet that the proclamation of the new law had been approved by the country's chief justice and the director of public prosecutions (DPP).
“I specifically inquired of the Honorable Minister of Justice whether the Honorable Chief Justice and the DPP were consulted on these measures,” Persad-Bissessar said.
According to the prime minister, Volney confirmed to the Cabinet that he had the support and approval of both the chief justice and the DPP on this matter.
The Cabinet, she said, in reliance upon these assurances by Volney approved the early proclamation of section 34 and the subsequent proclamation of the rest of the Act on 2 January 2013.
“The Hon Minister of Justice had a duty to faithfully and accurately represent the position and views of the Honorable Chief Justice and the DPP. He failed to do so and the Cabinet relied and acted on his assurances in good faith. His failure to do so is a serious misrepresentation and amounts to material non-disclosure of relevant facts to the Cabinet which effectively prevented it from making an informed decision,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Following a meeting with Volney on Thursday, during which the prime minister said he “admitted that he erred,” Persad-Bissessar advised the acting president Timothy Hamel Smith to immediately revoke Volney’s appointment as minister of justice.
Christlyn Moore, an attorney at law from Tobago, is to be appointed a senator and the new minister of justice.
A clause in the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, which came into effect at the end of last month, established a statute of limitation for alleged crimes more than ten years old.
In an emergency session last week, parliament voted to repeal the controversial Section 34 of the law, but some legal analysts said those who had already applied for relief under the new law might still be able to have their cases dropped.
Among those who could benefit are businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who are wanted in the United States on corruption charges related to the construction of a billion dollar international airport in Trinidad.
In 2005, a grand jury in Florida returned an indictment against Galbaransingh and Ferguson, as well as six Americans on charges of corruption involving construction of the airport terminal.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson have since been fighting extradition to the United States.