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Monday 9 December 2019
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MATT welcomes re-laying of charges against A&V CEO, son-in-law

Cpl Billy Ramsundar, left, and his father in law Haniff Nazim Baksh.
Cpl Billy Ramsundar, left, and his father in law Haniff Nazim Baksh.

THE MEDIA Association (MATT) has praised the re-laying of charges in the matter of assault against Guardian photographer Kristian De Silva.

The MATT executive, in a statement Saturday, said: "We are heartened that both the Office of the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) and the (police) took this matter as seriously as to generate a public response within 24 hours.

"Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. In this instance, the public has witnessed an example of institutions working with one another, including asking questions of one another, while seeking accountability and remedies in the interest of members of the public."

MATT said it has a keen interest in this case because a bona fide member of the news media was physically assaulted while on duty in September 2017.

"We are just as keenly aware, however, that dismissal of charges for want of prosecution is not unique in the magistrates’ courts. Members of the public have been demanding of all institutions, remedies for those aspects of the criminal justice system that result in charges being dismissed in this way. If this matter generates an urgency to repair those aspects of the system, then all three institutions – the Office of the DPP, the (police) and the press will have served the public interest well."

The MATT executive said they have observed the passionate professional investment in this matter by DPP Roger Gaspard SC and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.

"Their passion mirrors that of MATT to improve how we serve the public. We thank both office holders for their professional engagement and institutional co-operation. We await the outcome of the internal TTPS investigation into the circumstances that resulted in the dismissal of charges against A&V Drilling CEO Haniff Nazim Baksh and his son-in-law Cpl Billy Ramsundar on July 15, 2019."

Last week, MATT issued a release calling on the police and office of the DPP to explain how the case was dismissed for want of prosecution. The case had fallen apart on July 15 after it had been set for trial on several occasions and neither the police nor the state prosecutor showed up despite being given a six-month grace to get their house in order.

“The discharging of these men is, at best, a shocking example of negligence by institutions responsible for criminal prosecution. At worst, it is a tacit endorsement by law enforcement of attacks on journalists and press freedom, and a suspicious development given that one of the accused is a wealthy friend of the Prime Minister and the other a member of the TTPS," the release had said.

Griffith issued a release in response chiding MATT that it should consult and get the facts first, before shooting off press releases with demands. He also said MATT was rightfully concerned about the collapse of the case but added that he as commissioner has already commenced an investigation, by meeting the head of the Professional Standards Bureau on the weekend, to ascertain what transpired, what can be done and what action should be taken.

DPP Roger Gaspard also responded to MATT describing the claim that his office failed to prosecute as "nonsensical." He said his office only received the case files on July 3 and dismissed any suggestion that the case was influenced by a friendship between Baksh and the PM.

Gaspard subsequently advised police to lay fresh charges and the two men are scheduled to appear at the Siparia Magistrates' Court on September 3.

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