PM slams Law Association over CJ affair

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -

THE PRIME Minister spared no punches on Saturday as he accused the Law Association of discreditable conduct by trying "to entrap him," in moves to impeach Chief Justice Ivor Archie in 2019. He said this was done by "inviting me surreptitiously to be a witness in that matter."

Speaking at the Piarco airport before his trip to Suriname to attend a Caricom heads of government meeting, Rowley was asked his views on a proposed motion of no confidence to be debated by the association against Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, on July 15.

A group of 40 lawyers have asked the association to convene a special general meeting to vote on a no-confidence motion over Armour's possible breach of the code of ethics of the legal profession.

This possible breach is over his apparent misrepresentation of the facts in a sworn affidavit before a Miami court hearing a US$40 million lawsuit filed by the government against former government minister Brian Kuei Tung and others, for crimes arising out of the construction of the Piarco airport over two decades ago.

In response to the motion, Rowley said, "As for the Law Association, the only thing I am concerned about is who in this country has the opportunity to pass a vote of no confidence in the Law Association. Then I want to vote."

Later on, he claimed the association, then led by Douglas Mendes, SC, "when they were exercising themselves in the Chief Justice removal, sought to entrap me in that matter by inviting me surreptitiously to be a witness in that matter, I who had the responsibility of saying yea or nay to a tribunal to a case that they were promoting."

Mendes, in a WhatsApp response to the PM's claim, said, "That would be a decision for the council." He advised that Newsday direct the question to the current president Sophia Chote, SC. There was no immediate response from Chote.

In July 2019, Rowley said he did not initiate impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice after receiving legal advice, which said he should not take the association’s advice to invoke section 137 proceedings to have Archie impeached over certain allegations.

He said this advice led him to decide there were insufficient grounds to warrant him making a representation to the President for the CJ's removal and for a tribunal to be set up to investigate allegations that arose in 2017.

The association later challenged Rowley's decision in the High Court but the Prime Minister has maintained his position not to appoint a tribunal to investigate claims against Archie.

On Saturday, Rowley said were it not for his "experience and concern and caution" he could have been entrapped in that matter as a witness.

Chief Justice Ivor Archie. -

"That is my experience with the Law Association. And when they were not able to do that by that route, they went around and around and around until eventually, as prime minister, I–who had nothing to do with their ambition and behaviour, their like or dislike for the chief justice – ended up in the court having to take taxpayers' money to defend my office for a decision that was made quite legally and properly because the Law Association felt I should allow them to pick their own chief justice.

"I don't know how I end up in the court having to answer for a matter involving the Chief Justice and the Law Association.

"So if you find me unfazed by the Law Association, I have good grounds, because they only seem to be interested when it is time to create public discord. When it is time to stand up for the public interest, they bury their heads in the sand like ostriches.

"So we will do our job for as long as we are required to do it and when it is somebody else's turn, they will do it differently. They know what they did, when it was their turn," Rowley said.

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"PM slams Law Association over CJ affair"

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