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Monday 9 December 2019
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Morality test for UNC

AG: 'Recent events' influenced Opposition whistleblower vote

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in Parliament. FILE PHOTO
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in Parliament. FILE PHOTO

ATTORNEY General Faris Al-Rawi says he believes "recent circumstances" influenced the Opposition to vote against whistleblower legislation in the House Monday.

He was speaking with the media yesterday at the Parliament building, Port of Spain.

"Mrs Persad-Bissessar was at her very worst (Monday) in terms of law. I was genuinely surprised she would have come with the argument that she did and how completely wrong in the law, and I gave quite a strident criticism of her, not in her role as a parliamentarian, but in her role as a senior counsel.

"TT is wrestling with the issue of crime. Crime is fed by corruption and white collar support. For this country to have an Opposition say they are not prepared to support whistleblowing legislation is tantamount to a line in the sand. The side on which you stand ought to judge your principles and your morality on the issue of crime itself."

He continued: "Recent events have demonstrated that whistleblowing evidence can result in game-changing matters."

The recent events Al-Rawi are referring are likely the appearance in court on Monday of now former opposition senator Gerald Ramdeen and former attorney general Anand Ramlogan to answer three charges of conspiracy to engage in money-laundering, corruption and misbehaviour in public office.

Asked if he believed those "recent events" shaped the response of the Opposition on Monday Al-Rawi replied, "I am certain that the recent events did shape the Opposition's point of view. The question is why."

He stressed a sitting government stands more scrutiny from whistleblower legislation than an opposition.

"This Government says to all whistleblowers, 'Whilst we are the sitting government come and tell your story under protection from the courts of TT. Come and tell your story to a designated authority which are the 21 entities set out in the schedule.'

"That's no small position. We make ourselves available to be scrutinised in that way."

He said the Opposition, who has been out of the management of the economy for three and a half years, "is mortified at what a whistleblower can say then I think that they doth protest too much."

Al-Rawi said he wanted to remind citizens of all the pieces of law that had been brought to Parliament.

"And now you are seeing the context of the application of those laws."

He said Cabinet will consider its positions on the law and perhaps it is necessary to bring it into the Senate.

"This is really a test of morality on the UNC's part. There is no lawful, moral or intelligent reason for saying no to whistleblowing legislation. This law applies to the Government and everybody else in TT. It is what this country requires. And I notice that the UNC seems crestfallen and almost shattered by the fact that contrary to their expectations law enforcement was properly at work."

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