AN activist's legal pursuit of the reasons for the Petrotrin board's withdrawal of its lawsuit against former chairman Malcolm Jones involves an attack on a key witness against two top Opposition politicians, Vincent Nelson SC, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has alleged at a briefing at his Port of Spain office yesterday.
On the Privy Council’s ruling in favour of Ravi Balgobin Maharaj's quest to unearth details of Petrotrin's botched World GTL (gas to liquids) plant worth $2.8 billion, the AG said it was just “a run-of-the-mill case.” Maharaj firmly disagreed.
Al-Rawi said, "This is not a landmark decision. This is a twisted attack on a state witness." He alluded to Nelson's plea bargain to turn state witness against former AG Anand Ramlogan and attorney Gerald Ramdeen over alleged corruption in the award of legal briefs and fees under the former administration.
Denying Opposition claims of a conspiracy between the government and Nelson, Al-Rawi said, "It appears to me this matter is all about attacking a witness."
He remarked on the Privy Council’s invitation for Petrotrin or the AG to disclose information that could dispel concerns of political interference in the decision not to sue Jones.
“I got today – for the first time, as we’ve moved offices – the statements of Charmaine Baptiste and Anthony Chan Tack.
"Left up to me, I’d disclose them right now. Why? God help them (UNC), when you understand what’s inside these statements! It will show that the case against Mr Jones was completely ill-founded and it would demonstrate that there was an absolute dereliction of duty by the attorneys-at-law who sought to suppress that information. That lies at the feet of the UNC’s team of attorneys.”
Al-Rawi complained about “spliced and edited” videos of the Privy Council sitting now being circulated online by the Opposition, in what he deemed a contempt of court and a breach of copyright.
“I will certainly be reporting that to the Privy Council.”
Balgobin-Maharaj said the AG was trying to downplay the significance of the law lords' ruling as it was embarrassing for him.
"So whatever Mr Al-Rawi says – that this isn't some sort of victory– I have to disagree strongly with him, and say it is a complete victory, not only for me but for the people of TT, in moving forward to get the information on the multi-million-dollar loss that occurred with World GTL."
Maharaj said Al-Rawi had chosen to take the opinion of Nelson, who had drafted the initial case for the PP government, but then flip-flopped to say the case could not be won, when the PNM came into government.
He said the lawsuit against Jones was initially supported by a second legal opinion from Russell Martineau SC, but the case was ditched on the basis of only one legal opinion.
Maharaj said he next heads to the High Court to seek to get the witness statements used in deciding to withdraw the case against Malcolm Jones. He will file the motion based on public interest. Saying Al-Rawi is continuing to fight the matter and so run up the State’s legal bill, he said this undermines the AG’s vow to keep costs under control, and runs counter to the Privy Council’s judgement.