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posted 22 Sept 2012, 19:01 by Gerry Kangalee
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN), as with all right thinking citizens, has become all too familiar with the "knight in shining armour" approach to the misdeeds of this current administration. The Prime Minister continues to allow situations to escalate to a point where the public outrage can no longer be ignored and then "rides in to save the day." One only has to look at the way in which the Reshmi Ramnarine appointment, the fuel transport contract at NP and most recently bunkering contract at Petrotrin to name a paltry few, had been handled.

This time however the population, unlike the current administration, has raised the bar. The expectations of the population were, and continue to be, beyond the scapegoat offered to the population as a sign of corrective action. FITUN is not convinced that this is enough. In fact the PM’s statement has raised more questions for us and leaves us with a sense of grim uncertainty about what the next ‘misstep’ would be.

So why is FITUN reserving it commendations for the PM on the removal of Mr. Volney?

Firstly the PM failed to adequately explain the reason for the delayed response. Are we to believe that Mr Volney only admitted culpability on Thursday 20th September as stated in the PM’s speech where she stated: "I held a formal and candid meeting with Minister Volney today who has admitted that he erred.?"

What was his statement to the PM prior to the beginning of the debate in the Parliament to have the Section repealed? Nothing that anyone said had prompted the Honourable Prime Minister to engage Mr Volney prior to Thursday? FITUN is of the firm conviction that had the country in fact ‘moved on’ and accepted the repeal of the Section as sufficient to restore confidence in the current administration that we would have had absolutely no response.

Secondly, although a reference was made to the question in the preamble to the statement issued last night, the Prime Minister never actually answered why the Section was proclaimed early. The only reason offered is that Mr Volney said to do it! FITUN also notes the Prime Minister’s attempt to exonerate the Attorney General in the matter by pointing out that "...the AG was away on vacation during the period July 20th to August 4th." The problem with this is that : "On August 6th 2012 the Honourable Minister of Justice tabled a note before the Cabinet which sought Cabinet’s approval to proclaim the Act with effect from January 1st 2013. The note also sought approval for the early proclamation inter alia, of Section 34 on the basis that it was necessary to (and I quote…)"Facilitate a seamless operational transition and … give authority for the recruitment and appointment of Master’s of the High Court by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission in order that the Act may be operationalised on its effective date of January 1st 2013."

So the AG was present and accounted for at the time when the note was brought to the Cabinet. Furthermore to suggest, in 2012 with the proliferation of ICT which we boast of, that vacation means inaccessibility is absurd.

Finally, while there are many others, the most damning revelation, in the view of FITUN, is the failure of the Prime Minister to understand why the population would be outraged by Cabinet usurping the authority of the Parliament. Why didn’t any member of the Cabinet say that we ought not to approve on the basis that the Parliament had approved an alternative sequence for proclamation? Section 75(1) of the Constitution reads as follows: "There shall be a Cabinet for Trinidad and Tobago which shall have the general direction and control of the government of Trinidad and Tobago and shall be collectively responsible therefore to Parliament." The Prime Minister in tune with her other Ministers who have spoken to date failed to see this fundamental breach of the Constitution as having any significance. FITUN cannot move on. This issue is not yet over.

FITUN therefore reaffirms its endorsement of the call by the Joint Trade Union Movement for the removal of the Attorney General, for his gross incompetence in this matter, and the Minister of National Security who in his attempt to defend the indefensible showed contempt for the highest office of our land and levied an unwarranted attack on the head of the Anglican Diocese. FITUN will continue its discussions with cross sections of our society as we defend the sacred institutions of our democracy. In addition we continue to mobilise our forces in preparation for what seems the inevitable call to action against a runaway administration.

Joseph Remy