Has the Salaries Review Commission’s (SRCs) 98th Report been implemented in its entirety or only portions of it? And, if so, what are the mechanism by which those portions were effected?
Retired Senior Counsel Kenneth Lalla raised these questions, yesterday, as he called for an explanation to the latest imbroglio involving Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
The embattled CJ was expected to leave, today, for Washington DC, US, on a six-month sabbatical to “rest, reflect and study” after President Anthony Carmona reportedly granted him permission to do so, on February 5.
However, questions have since been raised about the authority by which Carmona granted the sabbatical, since the SRC’s recommendations on the issue were never finalised after being brought to the Parliament in 2014, under the former Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led People’s Partnership government.
Acting President Christine Kangaloo has asked Archie to defer his planned sabbatical until Carmona’s return to TT today.
It remains to be seen, then, if Archie, as head of the Judiciary, would be given the permission to embark of his course of study at the Federal Judicial Centre, Washington.
Saying the SRC can only make recommendations, Lalla told Sunday Newsday the Judiciary, based on the recommendations of the report, should have developed the administrative arrangements to give effect to the facility, especially in the area of sabbaticals.
“But the SRC has no power to enforce its recommendations. That is a matter for the Cabinet and Parliament.”
The respected jurist said he was pains to determine what in the SRC’s recommendations would have led Archie or the President to conclude the former was eligible or met the criteria for a sabbatical when nothing had reportedly been implemented.
“The question for consideration, then, is whether any part of that report was implemented or adopted, and if so, by what method. Was it an adoption of any part of the report, exclusive of sabbatical or was sabbatical part of the global implementation of the recommendations.?”
He continued: “The question is whether the report of the Salaries Review Commission is still lying on a table in Parliament without implementation of any part or portion of it.?
“Here is the report that the SRC, tendered to the President, Prime Minister and laid on the table, what has happened to it from 2014?
“Has it still been there unimplemented or has any portion of it been implemented. And, if so, what is the mechanism used for its implementation. And why has sabbatical not been dealt with?”
Lalla said the Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of Representatives “or whoever is responsible for taking the issue further other than laying it on the table,” should be able to shed light on whether or not the SRC’s report was implemented partially or in its entirety.
“The Partnership has gone out of office three years ago and so, if one did not do it, what about the other? There must be some rationale. That is how I see it.”
Apart from the issue of sabbatical, Lalla said the SRC’s report also dealt with salaries for judges, parliamentarians and senators.
He wondered whether its recommendations in the report for salary increases were ever implemented.
“Assuming that they recommended an increase in salary for Members of Parliament, judges and others, have those recommendations been implemented or are the persons receiving salaries prior to what was available to them before the submission of the report? I don’t know why no one has gone into this? I am confused.”
Senior Counsel Israel Khan, meanwhile, suggested that while the then Cabinet had accepted the recommendations, based on the SRC’s 98th Report, in February 2014, “it looked like they agreed in principle but it was never gazetted,” he claimed.
“The Salaries Review Commission agreed with it in principle and indicated they recommended how it should be implemented. It was for Cabinet to accept that. But it seemed that the Cabinet accepted the entire thing without zeroing into that aspect.”
Khan said the allegations of misconduct surrounding the CJ, including this latest development, warranted the prime minister’s intervention under Section 137 of the Constitution, which gives him the authority to establish a tribunal to investigate the circumstances which gave rise to his request for a sabbatical.
He claimed Archie had granted himself a sabbatical.
“Himself grants himself sabbatical and then misled the President. And then just as how he misled the President in appointing Marcia Ayers-Caesar (as a High Court judge) by not telling the President she had all of these outstanding, part-heard matters– he never informed the President and then they had to cancel her appointment.
“They will now have to cancel his sabbatical appointment because it is null and void. There is nothing in law to grant it.”
Khan regarded Archie’s latest faux pas as “the last straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“The Prime Minister, himself, would want to consider whether he should set up a tribunal under 137 to see whether Archie should be removed from office.”
Retired head of the public service Reginald Dumas says the latest controversy has further damaged the image of the Judiciary.
Speaking from a public affairs standpoint, Dumas told Sunday Newsday: “We already have got some unfavourable international publicity because of this apparent connection between him and Dillian Johnson and there are calls, I see, for the public release of the investigative reports that he (Archie) says he has about whether the photographs taken or supposed to be taken in Guyana were fake or not.”
He added: “The point is that we are getting a lot of unfavourable publicity because of this and that is not good for us.”
Dumas said the development could impact foreign investment.
“People will look at this and say, ‘If the Judiciary is like this, why should we put our money there because what kind of quality of the Judiciary do you have?
“Suppose I have a difference of opinion which has to go to court with the government, am I likely to get quick justice or justice at all. So, all of this has an impact.”