PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 4, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has called on the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) to break its silence on the decision by attorneys representing five contractors and a former government minister to write a judge urging him to reconsider postponing his ruling in a case in which they are involved until after the August 10 general election.
Rowley, speaking at a public meeting of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) on Monday night, said that as far as he was aware “justice was blind” noting that the “symbol of justice has a bandana over her eye.
“Justice is blind, you are not supposed to see who you are speaking to (as) to determine what answer to give. We now reach the stage in Trinidad where lawyers are writing the judge and telling the judge you see that decision you have to make, don’t make it before the election,” Rowley said.
“I want to ask the Law Association if that is proper. I want to ask the Law Association in Trinidad and Tobago, who always know when to jump in and when to keep silent, is to proper for lawyers, senior counsels, or junior counsels or whatever it is to be writing a judge and telling the judge you don’t give a judgement before because the outcome of the judgement could have an effect on the election,” Rowley told the virtual meeting as the party campaigned in the Chaguanas West constituency.
In the letter dated July 31, and addressed to Justice James Aboud, the attorneys representing several contractors and a former government minister in a lawsuit brought by the state-owned Estate Management Business Development (EMBD) Company, wrote “the purpose of this letter is to ask His Lordship to reconsider the date fixed for the delivery of the judgement having regard to the wide publicity given concerning the merits of he weakness of the above mentioned claims and counter claims”.
The letter noted that the “political arm of the Government made strong and inflammatory public statements about the strength of the case of the EMBD. Similarly, the political arm of the Opposition had made strong any inflammatory public statements about the weakness of the case of EMBD.
“It is in this context that the court may wish to consider postponing the delivery of the judgement to a few days after the date fixed for the general election on 10th August 2020. This is because the delivery of the judgement prior to the election date, whichever side succeeds in the applications before the court is likely to bring the administration of justice into political controversy,” the letter added.
Justice Aboud is due to deliver his ruling on August 6.
The judge is presiding over the EMBD’s lawsuit against former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, as well as a consolidated case in which three companies have sued the EMBD over unpaid contracts for the upgrade and rehabilitation of certain Caroni access roads and two contracts for rehabilitation works.
In an EMBD countersuit, the state entity is seeking repayment of sums paid to the contractors, and its claim against Moonilal includes other former senior executive officers of the company and three other companies
Moonilal, who is contesting net Monday’s general election on a ticket of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) and the others were accused of engaging in an elaborate scheme of bid-rigging, bribery and collusion which led to hundreds of millions of dollars (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) being disbursed to five contractors just before the 2015 general election.
In the letter to the judge, instructing attorney Karina Singh, outlined several newspaper articles which had been published recently on the EMBD matter.
“It is in that factual context having regard to the intense and inflammatory views expressed by the politicians both on behalf of the governing party and the politicians on behalf of the Opposition party on the strength and/or weakness of the claims and/or counterclaims that the court may wish to consider that the interest of justice demands that the judgment be postponed to a date after the general election,” she wrote.
There has been no response from the judiciary to the letter. – CMC