Attorney General Reginald Armour's opening contribution to the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, 2011 (Act No. 20 of 2011) was cut short on Monday only a few minutes after it began.
Moments before Armour took the podium, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had led a walkout of the debate on amendments to the Municipal Corporations (Extension of Terms of Office and Validation) Bill 2023, leaving two UNC members to debate the Indictable Proceedings Bill.
Government members told Newsday that Leader of the House Camille Robinson-Regis ended Armour's contribution early because of the walkout.
The Prime Minister was not present at Monday's sitting.
Contacted for comment, San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein, who acted as opposition chief whip on the day, said he suspected that government ended the sitting early to accommodate the PNM's local government screenings scheduled to take place on Monday afternoon.
The party screened candidates for the San Juan/Laventille and Port of Spain corporations from 4 pm.
Dr Rowley is head of the PNM's screening committee.
During his submission, Armour said the law, if passed, would see the removal of the preliminary inquiries, which will affect over 40,000 matters. He said, on average, it took two to three years to complete preliminary inquiries and, with the legislation, which the Government first brought to Parliament in 2019, that process could be reduced.
He said, when the law came to life, masters of the court would have the authority to decide whether to continue inquiry into existing matters or have them indicted.
He added that a master could dismiss matters if they found there was insufficient evidence to proceed at a sufficiency of evidence hearing.
Police officers who are attorneys will be allowed to prosecute some matters, Armour said.
He added that while the Director of Public Prosecution dealt with 90 preliminary cases annually, police, on average, did 4,000 to 6,000 each year. There are also some 11,707 pending cases.
Armour said the aim of the legislation was to address backlogs and, while the Constitution did not guarantee speedy trials, he hoped the law would reduce time of having two trials – preliminary inquiries and indicted cases – at the High Court.