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Monday 17 December 2018
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Letters to the Editor

AG out of line

THE EDITOR: In a post-Cabinet briefing on November 8, the Honourable Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi indicated that the law degree of the Honourable Senator Saddam Hosein should be revoked. This sensational rebuke was apparently in response to the Senator’s suggestion that under the proposed Income Tax (Amendment) Bill 2018 a taxpayer’s tax information could be shared with a foreign Government for even “a cuss case.”

I will deal with the merits of the senator’s comment in passing. The more pressing matter is the uncivil and unprofessional suggestion that the senator’s law degree should be revoked. The statement on its own smacks of incivility, but for it to be uttered by the Attorney General, himself an attorney-at-law, is scandalous. It should not be countenanced or glossed over.

The Attorney General occupies the second or third highest office in our nation. To use that office to suggest that a fellow member of the legal profession be de-credentialed simply because he disagrees with their statement is appalling. This is not about politics. It is about civility and basic professionalism.

That the Law Association of TT has been noticeably silent on this issue should also not be overlooked. The Law Association should defend the independence of the bar with vigour and promptness. Lawyers are allowed to make controversial statements, especially when those statements are intended to further the legislative process. The Law Association should have taken a strong stance against any suggestion that the credentials of a lawyer – let alone a sitting senator – be revoked for mere disagreement. That they have not done so is disappointing.

In the end, it is probably true that a bare “cuss case” would unlikely trigger the serious criminality required under the bill. However, it is also true that if that "cuss" was accompanied by additional information (eg “tell dem how yuh does go to de Middle East every year with gun man and money!”), then that may indeed trigger the serious criminality provisions under the Bill (stereotyping aside).

So, while the senator may have been a little sensational, this is his job. He is entitled to test the bounds of seemingly innocuous legislation. The AG's role, in turn, is to respond with the decorum and civility that befits both his office and his role as an attorney. In a country and political system where "bacchanal sells," we must insist that our office holders rise above such pettiness.

Dr Emir Crowne

Barrister & Attorney-at-Law,

New City Chambers, Port-of-Spain

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