Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi yesterday said both the Judiciary and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) have been receiving assistance to help improve the criminal justice system. Al-Rawi made this point as he concluded debate on the Indictable Offences (Pre-Trial Publicity) Bill 2017. Referring to statements made by Chief Justice Ivor Archie at the 2017-2018 ceremonial opening of the law term on Monday, Al-Rawi said Government supported Archie when he went to Nigeria and received computer software from the Nigerian government.
He said this software is being used in the Family and Children's Division of the High Court and, "has been bettered by the Government of Spain." Al-Rawi said this country has been able to shift from spending millions of dollars in software management and other expenses to, "to a glorious US$5,000 full stop for the year." He also said under the People's National Movement (PNM), a computer system is now being applied to the Magistracy, "for the first time ever in the history of TT."
Al-Rawi also said efforts are being made to improve transcription services in the court and it underscores Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's approach that, " the position of readiness for us is a matter of getting the minutia dealt with." Al-Rawi said there is regular dialogue with the DPP about filling critical positions in his office. Saying no such conversation took place under the former People Partnership (PP) government, Al-Rawi said the PNM acknowledges the independence of the DPP and the importance of the DPP in having an input regarding the individuals who fill these positions. Saying his permanent secretary writes and calls the DPP "every single Monday morning" on this, Al-Rawi said, "I can only do my part."
He rejected claims that Section 22 of the bill was the "new Section 34." Referring to the 2011 legislation which contained the infamous clause, Al-Rawi reminded senators that Section 34 indicated that matters shall be discharged after a particular period of time. In contrast, he said Section 22 in the current bill used the word "may" regarding the discharge of matters. "How on earth could shall and may be the same?" Al-Rawi asked.
He recalled that Section 34, "came alive by virtue of a Cabinet decision on August 9, 2012." Al-Rawi said that decision was confirmed on August 16, 2012 and both decisions were signed off by then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He identified Winston Dookeran, Prakash Ramadhar, Jack Warner, Dr Roodal Moonilal , Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Dr Bhoe Tewarie as some of the other former cabinet ministers who agreed to the proclamation of Section 34.
On complaints from some opposition and independent senators that Government was rushing to pass the bill, Al-Rawi reminded senators that they have not had to sit until " 6 am in the morning" to deal with legislation, as was routine under the PP. He said Government's approach to legislation now included track changes to documents and fulsome discussions. Al-Rawi reminded senators, "We each came here voluntarily. We all had an option to say no." He added, "In opposition, I had a very busy private practice. I turned up in the Senate every single time and I did my job.