Defending the DPP, Freedom and Democracy
In March, there was an extraordinary, coordinated attack against the independent Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard, by the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Chief Justice. This has not occurred in 16 years.
The PNM — and their agents in the public service — must be condemned in the strongest terms possible for their thuggish, gangster-like behaviour.
The PNM — and their agents in the public service — must be condemned in the strongest terms possible
This political attack by the Executive – and supported by the head of the Judiciary — is unacceptable because the entire purpose of having a DPP is to allow criminal prosecutions to be free from influence or direction by the Government and ruling party.
Having an independent DPP is a democratic protection, preventing the ruling party from persecuting its political opponents unfairly.
The UNC is clear that these attacks by the Prime Minister, Attorney General and Chief Justice are ways of applying pressure to the current DPP in order to get him to follow the PNM’s political agenda.
As important as the immediate issues are in this impasse, however, we would be mistaken to think that this is a one-off, singular, disconnected political stand-off between the PNM and the Roger Gaspard.
This attack on the DPP is part of a larger mission by the PNM to push Trinidad and Tobago to dictatorship and party paramountcy, by first going back to the 1962 Constitution, and then going even more backward, to the PNM vision of complete dominance over Trinidad and Tobago, without any but the most nominal and symbolic opposition.
They do not want a truly independent DPP.
The UNC will do everything in its power to prevent this from occurring. The UNC is the only force capable of stopping the PNM from their ignoble mission, and capable of actually establishing real democracy, freedom and prosperity in Trinidad and Tobago.
That has been our track record, and our mission.
John Jeremie’s Attack on DPP Henderson re: Basdeo Panday
The last time the DPP was attacked like this was also under the PNM, in 2006-7. At that time, then Attorney-General John Jeremie was publicly and privately pressuring then DPP Geoffrey Henderson to lay charges against Basdeo Panday and others in the Piarco Airport matter, and also to lay charges against other persons in other cases, such as the Monos Island drug bust.
The last time the DPP was attacked like this was also under the PNM, in 2006-7
Henderson at the time stood his ground and had to publicly rebuff Jeremie, telling him that he was out of place.
Coordinated attack on DPP Gaspard in 2023
Sixteen years later, on 9 March 2023, Prime Minister Keith Rowley publicly attacked DPP Roger Gaspard on a PNM platform. He criticised Gaspard for not occupying an unsafe, unsuitable building for which the Government had been paying millions of dollars in rent for three years. Notably, these rents were being paid to a friend of Faris Al-Rawi – PNM family, friends and financiers being enriched once again.
This was followed on 15 March 2023 by an attack from the Attorney General, Reginald Armour.
Armour — incompetent, failed, and the worst AG in the history of our country — publicly accused the DPP’s Office of underperforming. He declared that the severe shortage of staff was “an unsatisfactory explanation”, since other state bodies also had staff shortages.
This was then followed on 18 March by the Chief Justice, Ivor Archie. In a 10-page statement, Archie publicly criticised the alleged lack of co-operation and action from Gaspard, accusing the DPP of not taking sufficient action in seeking to fill vacancies, failing to file indictments and using archaic approaches in the criminal justice system.
This was an orchestrated public attack on DPP Gaspard by the Chief Justice, Attorney General, and Prime Minister.
It is clear that this was an orchestrated public attack on DPP Gaspard by the Chief Justice, Attorney General, and Prime Minister. These matters can and should have been dealt with privately and confidentially. But instead they were carried out on political platforms and the press.
The Real Reason for the Attacks on Gaspard
These unusual, improper, public attacks against Roger Gaspard by these three high office holders were unwarranted and unfounded. Notably, however, they have come after a series of politically inconvenient and embarrassing events for the ruling PNM.
These attacks have come after a series of politically inconvenient and embarrassing events for the ruling PNM.
Most recently, on 7 March DPP Gaspard had dropped the cases of Basdeo and Oma Panday, Carlos John and Ishwar Galbaransingh in the Piarco 3 matter. This caused the ruling PNM great public embarrassment.
A few months prior, on 10 October 2022, Gaspard dropped the cases against Anand Ramlogan and Gerald Ramdeen due to a lack of evidence.
Indeed, in that matter, Gaspard refused to acknowledge or honour any indemnity agreement illegally formulated and entered into with state witness Vincent Nelson by then Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. This also caused the PNM great public embarrassment.
Going forward, DPP Gaspard also has other politically sensitive matters on his desk, including investigations into Parliamentarians from both the PNM and UNC.
This includes the EMBD matter where the Government has already spent $45 million dollars on “SRP Kate” MacMahon and her team, bypassing the DPP’s office. These investigations have not delivered, and the DPP must make a decision.
Gaspard will also be the one advising the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau and Financial Investigation Branch on matters involving PNM ministers. Numerous “family companies” of sitting PNM Ministers were the subject of production orders in 2022 to examine their financials and the numerous state contracts which they are awarded. There was also a Special Branch Report naming Foster Cummings.
DPP Gaspard may embarrass the PNM yet again on both these issues, by dropping the politically directed witch-hunt against UNC members, and proceeding with the legitimate cases against PNM members.
A campaign has been launched by the PNM and its agents in the media and the State to scandalously paint Gaspard as incompetent
It is clear that a campaign has been launched by the PNM and its agents in the media and the State to scandalously paint Gaspard as incompetent in the eyes of the public, after he has publicly embarrassed them, and may do so again in future.
How Solid is the Independence of the DPP?
The DPP’s office was created so that criminal prosecutions would not be directed by political concerns or vendettas. This only was instituted in 1976, after a popular struggle for Constitutional reform following the Black Power movement and its aftermath in the early 1970s.
The DPP’s Office only was instituted in 1976
If it was only created in 1976, what happened before?
We need to remind ourselves of what the PNM-dominated 1962 Constitution was like, and what the PNM wish to return Trinidad and Tobago to.
The Office of the DPP did not exist in the PNM’s 1962 Independence Constitution. Criminal prosecutions were done by the Attorney General, appointed by the Prime Minister. The most famous prosecution was Karl Hudson-Phillips and Michael X/Abdul Malik in 1972.
The PNM always wanted a One-Party, Totalitarian, Dictatorial State. The PNM do not want any resistance to their dominance: they want no opposition, and no independence.
This is how the PNM’s 1962 Independence Constitution was framed. Everything was subject to the Prime Minister’s appointment or veto, including Independent Senators, Service Commission Members, the Commissioner of Police, and more.
In 1976 that changed with the Republican Constitution, which established the Director of Public Prosecutions in Section 90.
Previous DPPs were not truly independent
Up until the 2000s, DPPs were not very independent in practice, although they were on paper. For instance, in 1995 the then DPP was involved with the Manning Government in the plot to prosecute and persecute Leader of Opposition Basdeo Panday.
This was documented in “The Harassment of the Honorable Basdeo Panday” by the Center for the Study Of Harassment of African Americans, Washington DC, April 1995
The Conclusion of that report reads:
“After a thorough and exhaustive investigation into allegations of intimidation and harassment of The Honorable Mr. Basdeo Panday, Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, the Center for the Study Of Harassment of African Americans has concluded that there exists a pattern of legal and political harassment of Mr. Panday by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, including some of the top figures in Government in the person of the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Included in this campaign of harassment were other members of the legal and political community who played major and minor roles in this scandal.”
There exists a pattern of legal and political harassment of Mr. Panday by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago
Mr. Panday had to fight for Prime Minister with a criminal charge on his head. He won, and eventually the charge was dismissed as it could not stand in court.
PNM Undermining and Attacking the DPP since 2002
So although the PNM made the concession to the appearance of independence in the 1976 Republican Constitution (under which we still operate), it never wanted a truly independent DPP. In fact, ever since true independence has been displayed by a DPP, the PNM have been trying to reverse and undermine this.
The PNM never wanted a truly independent DPP
For instance, in 2002, the Manning Administration established the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau in the AG’s office — not the DPP’s office — to prosecute Basdeo Panday, yet again.
This was an attempt to assume criminal investigations under the AG’s office, like it was before 1976.
This caused much friction with DPP Geoffrey Henderson and AG John Jeremie.
Then DPP Geoffrey Henderson was eventually hounded out of office. They “kicked him upstairs”, as Lloyd Best used to like to say, and Henderson was appointed as a judge.
In addition, since Rowley became Prime Minister in 2015, his Government’s hired Kate MacMahon and her British firm to conduct a political witch-hunt. They also appointed her as a Special Reserve Police officer.
This was a way to continue to bypass the DPP, and this is always and only done by the PNM. By targeting his political opponents without evidence, and then looking to find “evidence”, Keith Rowley is apparently following what the Communist Dictator Josef Stalin used to say, “Show me the man, and I’ll find you the crime.” This is not justice, it is persecution.
Keith Rowley is apparently following what the Communist Dictator Josef Stalin used to say, “Show me the man, and I’ll find you the crime.”
Gaspard has maintained his independence, however, and not simply followed the PNM agenda. Because of this, now the PNM are trying to hound Roger Gaspard out of office.
PNM’s undermining of all independent institutions
The DPP is one of the few remaining independent institutions established by Republican Constitution that has actually remained independent.
The Presidency is supposed to be the ultimate independent office, through which all other independent office holders are appointed: Senators, Service Commissions, Chief Justice, DPP, Elections and Boundaries Commission, etc.
All these bodies are supposed to act independently of the Government and the Opposition, to provide a further check and balance on the Government.
The PNM are only content to provide the appearance of independence only, not the substance.
The PNM are only content to provide the appearance of independence only, not the substance.
In Government, they undermine the independence of these institutions by staffing them with PNM sympathisers – many of whom remain in office even when the PNM are in opposition.
So, the appointment of Christine Kangaloo as President is the ultimate undermining of independence in our system of Government. The Presidency is now blatantly and openly PNM, as opposed to secretly being PNM, as their previous appointments: Ellis Clarke, George Maxwell Richards, and Paula-Mae Weeks.
The Judicial and Legal Service Commission, too, remains a PNM nest, just as the PNM like it. It is not the independent body it is supposed to be.
The Police Service Commission has been corrupted by its current and former members’ ties to the PNM, and Keith Rowley’s illegal interference in the selection of a Commissioner of Police.
The Chief Justice is supposed to be politically independent. He has clearly shown himself not to be.
The Chief Justice on several occasions has had persistent calls for his impeachment made by the Law Association, the Opposition, and civil society, especially between 2017 and 2020.
Despite the strong cases, official motions and clear evidence against the Chief Justice, Rowley has consistently refused to trigger impeachment proceedings against Archie – as they were done in 2007 against Sat Sharma, who successfully defended himself. Rowley has in this way protected Archie.
Archie has taken a side in this public battle, lending assistance to the PNM in the Executive, in their bid to undermine the DPP, rather than defending his colleague in the Judiciary. This is wholly unnecessary, unbecoming, inappropriate and improper for a CJ. He is supposed to be an independent officer, and supposed to defend the independence of the Judiciary. Not join with the Executive in attacking it.
It appears that the CJ is repaying the debt owed to Rowley for not initiating impeachment proceedings against him.
The DPP is maintaining his independence, despite the coordinated attacks.
The DPP is maintaining his independence, despite the coordinated attacks. This is in sharp contrast to 1995, when the DPP cooperated with the Executive’s political persecution of Basdeo Panday.
UNC the Main Force protecting Democracy in T&T
We are witnessing the PNM’s continuous attack on democracy, accountability, and transparency.
The next in line for destruction are the the Service Commissions and the Privy Council.
The United National Congress is the only force capable and mobilised to fight against this, and we will.
The Independence intended in the 1976 Constitution has been thwarted in far too many respects. It needs to be strengthened, not weakened.
Despite these setbacks, the UNC will never allow the PNM to turn Trinidad and Tobago into a PNM Dictatorship!
The UNC will never allow the PNM to turn Trinidad and Tobago into a PNM Dictatorship!
We will Stand our Ground, on the Road to Victory!