UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen is still questioning Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s presence on the panel of judges which heard the party’s election petitions in 2015.
In a statement, Ramdeen asked if Archie, who sat as president of the court for the appeals, told Justice Allan Mendonca he had a potential conflict of interest because he recommended people for subsidised State housing and was actively lobbying the Government and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for a favourable response.
Ramdeen’s statement came hours after the Judiciary sought to clarify the issue of how the judges, sitting on the election petition appeals, were chosen.
The Judiciary said it was Mendonca who rostered the judges for the appeal.
But, Ramdeen said based on what was said by the Judiciary, that the most senior judges were chosen “because they were weighty matters”, then he wants to know how, in the appeal of the La Horquetta/Talparo petition, were Justice Rajendra Narine and Judith Jones selected to sit with the Chief Justice in that matter.
“That panel did not comprise the three most senior judges in the Court of Appeal,” Ramdeen said.
He added, “If the stated criteria were applied, by logical extension, the panel ought to have comprised the three “most senior judges” in the Court of Appeal who comprised the panel that dealt with the other matters namely, the Honourable Chief Justice Mr. Ivor Archie and Justices of Appeal Allan Mendonca and Peter Jamadar.
“It cannot be that this appeal was of less national importance and significance then the others.”
He also said the Judiciary’s statement did not address if Archie told Mendonca of his potential conflict because of his petition to Prime Minister Dr Rowley for State housing for people.
“It is unfortunate to say the least that the press release failed to confront this critical issue to alleviate the legitimate concern and fear about the risk of apparent bias.
“I expect that a conversation between the Honourable Chief Justice and the Prime Minister is a rare occurrence and would be easily recalled by the Honourable Chief Justice.”
“I therefore call upon the Honourable Chief Justice to clear the air and move with similar alacrity to clarify whether he did in fact disclose to Justice of Appeal Mendonca the nature, extent and reason for his personal contact with senior government officials at the HDC and the Honourable Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley with respect to his request for housing for individuals known to him. “
Ramdeen said this should have been disclosed to the judges sitting on the election petitions’ appeal “so that they could consider and discuss the issue and take the relevant steps to protect the integrity of the judicial process.”
“ It was also necessary for the Chief Justice to make full and frank disclosure to the parties to the election petitions appeal so that they could seek details or further disclosure from him with a view to making an application for him to disqualify himself and not sit on the appeals.”
He said the request for disclosure was a matter of “national importance, in the interest of transparency, accountability and maintaining public trust and confidence in the administration of justice.”
Ramdeen is representing a voter who challenged the 2015 general election results in the San Fernando West constituency in the 2015 general elections.
He has said he intends to file an application in the appellate court seeking to have the court’s rulings struck out.