Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 27th 2013 Contents A6
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt October 27, 2013
For the first time in T&T, a state
witness will take the Government to
court for failing to uphold its side of
the bargain while he stayed in the Wit-
ness Protection Programme.
The attorney who will fight the case
is former attorney general Ramesh
"It will be a novel case...a landmark
case. I always enjoy doing landmark
cases and sometimes even losing at the
High Court level and Court of Appeal
level and winning at the final level
because you would have no precedent
for these novel cases. You are making
new law, you are developing the law
to give protection to people," Maharaj
Maharaj said he was in the process
of assessing the nature of the action
to be filed in court because the Gov-
ernment appeared not to have fulfilled
its promises to one of its witnesses and
his client, who he named as Owen, an
Owen, 44, a father of one, was the
main witness in the case involving Jun-
ior Fredericks alias Ombi, who was shot
multiple times on November 12, 2001,
Owen was also a victim of the shoot-
ing. He was shot five times to the lower
part of his body and was admitted to
the Port-of-Spain General Hospital,
where he spent 11 months under police
protection. Owen s left leg, which
became infected, was amputated, forc-
ing him to move around in a wheelchair
and use a colostomy bag to collect his
Owen later signed a Memorandum
of Understanding with the Government
to turn state witness and testify against
Andy Brown, Brian Barrington and
Sebastien Joseph for the murder of
For years the case dragged on in the
court, and in May of 2010 the charges
against all three accused were dis-
Not long after, Joseph was murdered
Fearing that his life was in danger,
the state kept Owen in a safe house up
until June of 2013 after an assessment
showed that he was no longer at risk.
But within days of leaving the pro-
gramme, Owen complained of receiving
threats from blocked cell numbers. He
was repeatedly warned on his phone
to watch his back.
On August 18, 2013, he also received
a text message from a cell phone (num-
ber withheld) which read "I will kill
These matters were reported to the
Longdenville Police Station.
Maharaj said a police officer who
took Owen s report instructed him to
go to a telecommunications provider
in Maraval to find out in whose name
the cellphone was registered.
However, the staff at the telephone
company informed Owen that only the
police had authorisation to obtain such
To date, the police have not contacted
Owen and the matter has not been
investigated, Maharaj said.
Maharaj said his client s life was now
at risk and feels he should be given
protection as a matter of urgency.
"The threats continue and are real,"
Maharaj has since written Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and
National Security Minister Garry Grif-
fith on the matter.
Asked how soon the matter will go
before the court, Maharaj said concep-
tualising a new case takes time.
"We are hoping to get pre-action
protocol letters sent out to give the
State an opportunity to resolve this
Maharaj said his biggest setback was
obtaining documents from the T&T
Police Service with regards to Owen s
files. "They have not kept their promises
so far, despite several requests. We have
written a final request. If they do not
give it to us I am going to file an appli-
cation for judicial review under the
Freedom of Information Act to get an
order from the court commanding them
to give us the information. So whatever
it takes for us to get the documents
and records we will get it. We are pre-
pared to take this matter to the highest
level, even if it means going to the Privy
Council to get justice for this man and
for future state witnesses in the coun-
According to Maharaj, they had
agreed to provide Owen with a skill so
he could earn a livelihood and also
promised that he would be provided
with adequate compensation when he
comes out of the programme.
"This did not happen," Maharaj
pointed out. "This is a serious violation."
Having played an integral role several
years ago in piloting the Witness Pro-
tection Bill and ensuring that the wit-
ness protection law was passed in Par-
liament while he served as attorney
general, Maharaj said he was convinced
that the Government s uncaring treat-
ment towards witnesses would not
assist in any future fight against
they did not do their part, what
they have done is they have
betrayed him...and the State
betraying witnesses cannot be pro-
ductive or an asset against crime.
So the years he spent in the pro-
gramme, if he was not there he
would have been able to help him-
self. He gave the State the right to
own him for 12 years and all he
got out of it was $92,000. He
upheld his side of the bargain."
A sitting duck
Maharaj said he intends to send
a message to the Government that
they must treat witnesses properly
and address their injustices.
Maharaj said while other wit-
nesses are being taken advantage
of, the public is suffering.
"The public is not getting the
benefit of state witnesses coop-
And as a result, he said, the
country s detection rate remains
"As a matter of fact, it is less
than ten per cent for serious crime.
The conviction rate is not even
one per cent for serious crime."
Maharaj said the whole concept
of the programme was for the State
to give incentives to witnesses who
would co-operate and give evi-
dence in return.
In the USA, Maharaj said wit-
nesses are provided with jobs,
homes, new identities, their fam-
ilies are protected and witnesses
eventually live normal lives after
testifying in crucial cases.
George: I cannot
answer your question
On October 19, Justice Minister
Emmanuel George when told about
Owen s plight replied, "I cannot
answer your question."
Next week: Owen, in a face-to-
face interview with the Sunday
Guardian at Maharaj's law office in
San Fernando on October 9, speaks
about the trials and tribulations he
faced while in the programme.
State witness to sue State
...they have failed to keep their promises---Maharaj
Attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj
ALL ABOUT BUSINESS
Martin Rameny, a parent, left, and school teacher Debra Simon, with Form Five students look at a business
project on display during Bishop Anstey open day held on Friday. PHOTO : SHIRLEY BAHADUR
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