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Sunday 21 July 2019
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Moonilal: Rowley must act on CJ

Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal
Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is once again calling on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to invoke Section 137 of the Constitution in resolving the controversies surrounding Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

“He (Rowley) should certainly consider that as an option at this time if there are so many issues hanging around,” he told Sunday Newsday yesterday.

“The Constitution provides for it. It was the same thing done in the Sat Sharma (former chief justice) matter some years ago - a tribunal was appointed and they properly and with legal authority investigated these matters and made their findings.”

He said such a tribunal, if implemented, must have people of impeccable character.

“It should not be just young lawyers in an adhoc body. A tribunal like that will involve former chief justices and people with enormous experience in the area and also legal acumen above the average.”

Moonilal said the Salaries Review Commission’s 98th Report was accepted by the Cabinet and the Parliament in 2014.

“I had not seen it until Friday, when this matter arose. I did not have a chance to return to look at it.” He added: “I understand that the report spoke about sabbatical leave for judges but my understanding is that it was a matter that was left to the Judiciary to work out the details on the policy as it relates to that type of leave and the budgeting for it. So, it was to be fleshed out at the level of the Judiciary.”

Moonilal said a sabbatical was not a vacation.

“It involves a period of time away from your desk for academic or intellectual pursuits and that requires support from other types of staff. So, there were a lot of details to be worked out

“A sabbatical is not casual leave or sick leave. It is not a leave that way. It is an expressed purpose. You qualify after a period.”

Moonilal said the Cabinet and Parliament can only agree, in principle, to a sabbatical “but that requires further policy work and budgeting and I think that was left to the Judiciary.”

He said: “As far as I know, nothing has happened that came back to us. This is not a matter for us in Opposition. I go back to say that Kamla Persad-Bissessar had recommended that the Prime Minister invoke Section 137 when the Marcia Ayers-Caesar matter developed.”

Had that been done, Moonilal said, “we would have been spared these sordid details of other matters and everything could have be done together in the investigation or inquiry that may or may not result in any action.

“So, we are really paying a penalty as a society for the failure to invoke section 137 as recommended by Mrs Persad-Bissessar.”

Rowley said in the House of Representatives on Friday he would not be badgered into appointing any tribunal to investigate the CJ.

“The only assurance I can give is that as Prime Minister, I’ll ensure that the responsibility of the Office of the Prime Minister operates under the provisions of the Constitution and not calls being made by people who don’t understand the role of the Prime Minister and the provisions of the Constitution,” he said in response to a question from United National Congress MP Vidya Guyadeen-Gopeesingh.

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