Moonilal warns of all-out attack on DPP

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal
Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal

OROPOUCHE East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is warning of a possible all-out attack by the Government against Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, SC, with the intent of either suspending or firing him.

Moonilal also claimed the basis for these moves against Gaspard was linked to the collapse of legal matters involving current and former UNC members and complaints by Gaspard about his office being unable to function properly because of a lack of resources.

The UNC MP made his allegations at a news conference at the Opposition Leader's office, in Port of Spain, on Sunday.

Moonilal said he will ask chairman of the Parliament's national security joint select committee (JSC) Keith Scotland to summon Gaspard to a meeting with the committee to determine whether or not TT's criminal justice system has collapsed.

Referring to comments by the Prime Minister and Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, last week, Moonilal said, "There is something deeper.

"Watch for the Prime Minister writing the service commission (Judicial and Legal Services Commission) to make a complaint against Gaspard and to have disciplinary action taken against him."

Moonilal claimed such action "may include suspension or dismissal pursuant to whatever the law is."

He said Gaspard could "be referred to a service commission and the normal disciplinary matters procedures can take place."

Moonilal reiterated, "Watch for an all-out assault by the Prime Minister and the Attorney General and this DPP."

He claimed this alleged assault would be "rooted in those matters in the court (against former and current UNC members)...the surprise turn that it took in the court recently."

Moonilal said at a PNM public meeting on March 9, Dr Rowley criticised Gaspard for the DPP's office not taking occupancy of a building on Park Street in Port of Spain that is being rented for $45 million.

Days later, he continued, Armour said the DPP was under-performing.

"Watch for a complaint to the service commission and watch for their approach to have this DPP dismissed."

Moonilal questioned why Armour wants to meet this week with Gaspard to discuss issues affecting the operations of the DPP's office.

"The AG has no business in this. Absolutely no business."

Referring to legal matters against current and former UNC members that the DPP recently discontinued, Moonilal said, "What is hurting the PNM is that they have been carrying out a campaign, for over 20 years, a political campaign to lump and to shame and to humiliate UNC officers, UNC members, UNC ministers, including a former prime minister."

Now that these matters have been discontinued, Moonilal claimed, "Rowley is now a wounded political animal. He is on the ropes because all of the matters involving 'UNC's conduct' which he wants to paint as corrupt are being thrown out of the court every single day."

He alleged that last week in Barataria, Rowley claimed the police had information relating to other legal matters involving UNC members.

Moonilal asked how Rowley would know such information.

"The Prime Minister ought not to be involved in police investigations or privy to evidence that is before the police. But something is hurting the Prime Minister."

Moonilal further claimed Rowley was afraid that some of those alleged ongoing legal matters will reach nowhere, with no charges being brought against any current or former UNC member.

He recalled that in 2013, the then People's Partnership (PP) government decided to offer the DPP's office a building on Park Street in Port of Spain to rent and to add 113 more lawyers to its staff.

When the PP demitted office in September 2015, Moonilal said the Office of the AG did not object to the DPP's office renting that building.

"So that no decision was taken by our administration to house the DPP at that building, although we recognised that it was priority for the DPP. It was always subject to security vetting because a DPP's office requires a different level of security arrangements."

Moonilal asked why between 2015 and 2022  the PNM had not worked with the Office of the AG and the building's landlord to instal security devices to house the office at the Park Street building.

"They (PNM) went on to pay $45 million in rent for a building that was unoccupied. Keith Rowley wants to cry today and blame the DPP. This is not a matter to blame the DPP."

Former UNC attorney general Garvin Nicholas said, "Our institutions are suffering from a lack of credibility as it is. It is therefore callous for any administration to seek to undermine the integrity of this most important institution for political expediency."

He said the DPP functions as an arm of the AG’s office as the AG has, under Section 76(2) of the Constitution, responsibility for the administration of legal affairs (both civil and criminal).

"The DPP’s office is meant to function with a great deal of autonomy and it is the DPP who decides on pursuing or withdrawing criminal proceedings on behalf of the State."

Nicholas said, "The JLSC is the body responsible for the hiring (subject to the PM's approval) of the DPP and has responsibility for disciplinary action."

While anyone can make a complaint for investigation to the JLSC, Nicholas said, "However, it would be a high bar to cross to suggest that the DPP exercised his authority irrationally."

He added, "It is always dangerous when an AG attacks a DPP and this should be avoided as much as possible."

In a virtual news conference on Sunday, Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah criticised Rowley for criticising the DPP's office for not occupying the building.

"This political attack was not only crass but disgraceful."

Abdulah said Rowley's response to dealing with national issues seems to be to attack someone.

He added that those issues were the responsibility of the Government to handle.

Section 111 of the Constitution

Under section 111 of the Constitution, the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) has the power to appoint persons to hold or act in prescribed public offices for which legal qualifications are required. This includes the power to make appointments on promotion; to transfer and confirm appointments and to remove and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices.

Sections 111 (2) and (3) provides that the commission consult with the Prime Minister before it makes an appointment to the offices of Solicitor General, Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Director of Public Prosecutions, Registrar General or Chief State Solicitor.

The offices falling under the purview of the commission are listed in the first and second schedules of the Judicial and Legal Service Act chapter.6:01; section 4 (2) of the Tax Appeal Board Act, chap.4:50 and section 65A of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, chapter 4:01.

The total number of such offices falling under the jurisdiction of the JLSC currently stands at 584, its website says.


"Moonilal warns of all-out attack on DPP"

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