LEAD attorney for La Brea-based construction firm Namalco, Alvin Fitzpatrick, SC, has raised a concern over statements made by Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambarath at a meeting of the People’s National Movement on Tuesday.
Fitzpatrick’s voiced his concern at the continuation of the trial of his client’s $1.3 billion claim for payment against the Estate Management and Business Development Company (EMBD).
The case is being heard by Justice Ricky Rahim at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.
Fitzpatrick said the minister’s statements were “highly disturbing.”
On Tuesday, at Signature Hall, Chaguanas, Rambarath was speaking of the distribution of deeds for former Caroni (1975) Ltd lands. He said there were 14 incomplete sites and made no apologies for it.
He added,” If you read in the papers, you see a case, a civil case going on with a $1.2 (sic) billion claim. We had to take a decision on those claims and those sites could not be finished until we got to the root of all the corruption that is involved. Until we deal with it and when we clean it up and account to the taxpayers, not only about the money, but the criminal conduct of people on those projects. Then we will move on with the distribution.”
Fitzpatrick told the judge the statement, coming from the line minister for the EMBD, demonstrated total disrespect for the judicial process and to the court.
“I know it is silly season, with local government election around the corner, but no one should make a comment while the matter is before the courts that parties in this case are criminals,” he said.“It is completely disrespectful and quite improper.”
He said the statement aired on television and social media, and while he was confident it would not influence the judge, he wanted his objection put on record.
Rahim said he was taken by surprise by Fitzpatrick and suggested he has someone go on affidavit outlining the concerns as well as details of what the minister said.
Fitzpatrick said he would.
The EMBD’s lead attorney, Jonathan Davis,QC, said his hands were tied as he too was unaware of what was said, but he could can make enquiries about the concern raised.
Rahim also suggested that the issue of contempt of court was not the only way to treat with such matters but the Judiciary’s protocol department could send out a reminder to people to be circumspect about commenting on matters before the court.