Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 22nd 2017 Contents A6 news
guardian.co.tt Wednesday, March 22, 2017
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Risk too high
Legal practitioners do not
want to stay in T&T's criminal
bar system due to the risk, Op-
position Senator Wayne Sturge
He spoke about the situation
during yesterday's Senate debate
on proposed legislation for people
to have the option to be tried by a
judge rather than a jury. Sturge not-
ed Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi
had said this was "a partial step to-
ward removing trials by jury."
If the legislation was designed to
unblock the criminal justice sys-
tem, Sturge said various issues had
to be dealt with or the system would
continue to fail.
Noting Government senators'
statements that the Chief Justice
and other judges had alluded to
delays and the need to fix system,
Sturge said the judiciary could not
"put its mouth" into the situation
and advise Government on what
laws to bring. He said they could
be compromised when cases based
on such law came before them. He
noted similar opinions in experts'
"Rule of Law" treatise.
If the constitutionality of the
proposed legislation is tested in
court, the CJ, for example, couldn't
hear that matter, Sturge pointed
out, also citing the separation of
powers between the judiciary, leg-
islature and executive.
He said reasons which would
make any such legislation fail in-
cluded availability of practitioners
for the legal system.
"You need lawyers to operate the
criminal justice system," Sturge
said, noting the Director of Pub-
lic Prosecutions had complained
of high turnover of attorneys in
"People don't stay in criminal
law, people don't stay in the private
bar - four years and you out. People
come out of high school, UWI and
Law School and are handling cas-
es, they're dealing with hardened
criminals---nobody wants to stay
because of the risk."
He said prosecutors have left to
become magistrates and people
were leaving the private bar also.
"The AG has noted only 20 at-
torneys are in the criminal bar - so
how will criminal justice system
operate if it's lawyer-less?"
Sturge said there should be in-
centives for this sector since it
doesn't pay. He noted he himself
was paid $10,000 for seven months
for handling a certain significant
"Nobody earns hourly rates -
that's the civil bar," Sturge said,
adding that he did the Vindra Nai-
paul-Coolman case since nobody
Sturge said legislation brought
by former People's National Move-
ment AG John Jeremie had also
tripled the time for preliminary
inquiries and changes in hearsay
laws then caused further delays and
discouraged people from coming
Sturge said parts of the legis-
lation---which required judges to
give reasons for verdicts---could
also jeopardise hangings.
He noted, for example, that the
written reasons in the Lester Pitt-
man case took three years. Such
lengthy periods would guarantee
the time given by the Privy Coun-
cil on executions in the Pratt and
Morgan matter wouldn't be met,
"so don't hope to hang anybody,"
Sturge said an accused might pay
with their life for use of the legis-
lation. He said many depended on
Legal Aid and if a young attorney
advised someone to opt for a judge
rather than jury for trial, when it
moved further, an experienced
attorney may find a mistake had
PNM Senator Foster Cummings,
who praised the AG, said the Oppo-
sition was alarmist, given to "doom
and gloom and exaggeration.
"It's the only way they know how
to oppose---oppose for oppose sake.
It doesn't matter the merit of the
matter---scare the people, spew
misinformation, cause panic,
dramatise, grab headlines...when
you disagree with them, you be-
come target of their attacks," Cum-
Garcia must go, says Tim
Opposition MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh
yesterday called for the removal of Ed-
ucation Minister Anthony Garcia and
Minister in the Ministry of Education
Lovell Francis, saying the country's
education system will only regress
under their leadership.
Gopeesingh's call came during a news
conference at the Office of the Leader of
the Opposition, Charles Street, Port-of-
Spain, called in the wake of a resurgence
of violence and indiscipline in some of the
Gopeesingh, a former education min-
ister, said Garcia and Francis were "both
ill-fitted to lead the education system. And
in the interest of the country's students, we
continue to call on the Prime Minister to
relieve Garcia of his post as Minister of Ed-
ucation and also Minister Lovell (Francis)."
Gopeesingh said Prime Minister Dr
Keith Rowley "must seriously consider
appointing a competent Minister of Ed-
ucation. You cannot have a woodworking
teacher as a minister of education and ex-
pect significant gains."
He said Garcia's tenure had been "char-
acterised by retrograde measures, which
has the effect of stifling students' educa-
tion at a time that requires the creation of
an innovative knowledge-based society."
He said Garcia and Francis' "rampant
incompetence is already hurting the coun-
try's current students and we call for the
Prime Minister to arrest this precipitous
decline in the education sector by the re-
moval of Garcia and Francis."
He said many of the effective initiatives
that were implemented by the former PP
Government prior to 2015 were disbanded.
He said the People's Partnership govern-
ment had increased the amount of people
in the Student Support Services Division
from 300 to 700, but that figure "has been
reduced considerably,people are not being
paid and the amount of professional ser-
vices are dwindling considerably and this is
impacting upon the school management."
Garcia declined comment when con-
tacted by the T&T Guardian yesterday.
Firemen carry an employee from the San Fernando City Hall during the San Fernando City Corporation's
Disaster Management Unit evacuation exercise yesterday. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DESILVA
Sturge: Attorneys ducking criminal cases
JUST A DRILL
No Digicel restructuring yet
Government is lobbying for T&T
to become a location for one of
Digicel's two proposed Caribbean
This was revealed in a Public Ad-
ministration Ministry statement fol-
lowing a meeting yesterday between
Public Administration Minister Maxie
Cuffie and Digicel T&T CEO John Alves.
The meeting was held to discuss the
company's future in light of reported
reorganising of its operations.
The ministry said Alves pointed out
that no decision has yet been taken on
the restructuring of Digicel and what
it would mean for T&T.
Yesterday's development comes
amid possible global Digicel restructur-
ing, and a recent Voluntary Separation
offer to employees. In February, Digicel
announced its intention to cut staff by
25 per cent globally.
The Public Administration Ministry
said in February it was also reported
Digicel would be adopting a new or-
ganisational structure, with centralised
regional hubs consisting of two in the
Caribbean and two in the Pacific region.
Yesterday, Digicel corporate com-
munications spokesman Penny Gomez
said the company offered the VSEP plan
from March 1.
Digicel group PRO Antonia Graham,
responding to queries on the status -
and possible staff numbers involved -
said the offer is still open and "queries
After yesterday's Government-Digi-
cel meeting, Cuffie told the T&T
Guardian he'd asked about possible
job losses in T&T. He noted Alves said
no decision has yet been taken on the
restructuring of Digicel and what it
would mean for T&T.
He also expressed to Alves the hope
Digicel would consider T&T as a pos-
sible location for one of its Caribbean
hubs. Cuffie said such a decision will
lead to job creation and boost the econ-
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