Moonilal Prays for Judiciary

Spread the love


By Prior Beharry

CITING the famous 1936 Privy Council judgement in favor of a newspaper editor, Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal says he prays that the Judiciary in Trinidad and Tobago is not politically compromised.

Dr Moonilal issued a release on Friday, hours after the Court of Appeal called an unexpected hearing to discuss statements he made at a political meeting on Monday in response to comments by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a press conference on June 12.

Dr Moonilal said, “Justice is not a cloistered virtue, she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken comments of ordinary men.”

This quote is from Privy Council ruling that revoked the conviction of an editor after an article in the Port of Spain Gazette on June 29, 1934, titled The Human Element which criticised alleged inequality of sentences passed by judges in T&T for certain criminal offences.

In his release, Dr Moonilal said, “In what could only be described as chilling news, today I learnt that the Court of Appeal convened a hearing to treat with certain comments made by me at a political meeting in defence of our democratic way of life.

“As the public would recall, I took umbrage and raised as a matter of serious public concern of how the prime minister could reveal the result of a politically sensitive court matter prior to the Court of Appeal publishing their decision.

“It was concerning to me because in a democracy it is understood that there should be a separation of powers between Judiciary and the executive including prime minister as head of the executive.”

Estate Management and Business Development Company Limited (EMBD) has sued TN Ramnauth and Company Limited, Taradauth Ramnauth, Kall Co Limited, Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Limited and Fides Limited.

Shortly before the 2015 general elections EMBD awarded 12 contracts to contractors TN Ramnauth, Kallco, Mootilal Ramhit, Fides and Namalco for rehabilitation of roads and infrastructure. TN Ramnauth, Kallco and Mootilal Ramhit sued EMBD after EMBD did not pay for works which they had done on their contracts. EMBD countersued them and Taradath Ramnauth personally claiming the works done were shoddy and sought to recoup monies paid to them. EMBD also alleges that these three contractors and Fides, Namalco conspired with EMBD former CEO Gary Parmassar and then line minister Dr Moonilal, EMBD former divisional manager Madhoo Balroop and EMBD engineer Andrew Walker to corruptly attain the contracts. EMBD sued Fides, Namalco, Parmassar, Moonilal, Walker and Balroop. No one has filed a defence yet in EMBD’s countersuit or its own claim.

TN Ramnauth, Mr Ramnauth, Kallco, Mootilal Ramhit and Fides filed a preliminary application before then judge James Aboud, seeking to have EMBD’s countersuit and claim dismissed. The other parties named above filed for time to put in their defences pending the decision of the application before Justice Aboud.

Justice Aboud dismissed the application seeking to thrown out EMBD’s countersuit and claim. The five of them appealed this decision which appeal was heard on 26 May and judgment reserved to 30 June. On 26 May, the parties who filed for extensions of time to file their defence entered a consent order with EMBD for them to file their defences within 45 days of the Court of Appeal’s decision on 30 June or any other Order which the Court of Appeal makes on 30 June.

The Court of Appeal called the matter on Friday after the contractors’ attorneys sent a letter to the court about statements Dr Rowley made at the press conference.

The prime minister said, “They went, they appealed the matter and they went to get the judge’s position overturned.

“The appeal court has ruled in favour of the state enterprise, the EMBD and as we stand here now Mr Moonilal (sic) and others have to put in a defense in the court to disclaim for the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in a state company.”

Dr Rowley said, “And I ask you the media to advise the public as the matter progresses through court. Two steps have gone already in the court but there is silence in the country.

“The first step is the Justice (James) Aboud ruling that nobody seems to know and want to know. The second step is the appeal court saying put in your defense, you have a defense to put it in, put it in.”

Dr Moonilal responded to the prime minister’s statements at the United National Congress (UNC) Monday Night Forum on Labour Day at the Aranguez North Secondary School.

The Court of Appeal panel comprised Justice Nolan Bereaux, Justice Mark Mohammed and Justice Maria Wilson.

AZP Ad 1 advertise here

Justice Bereaux said days after Dr Moonilal’s statements, he received a WhatsApp video from YouTube showing his comments.

On Friday, the Court of Appeal played a part of Dr Moonilal’s presentation in a screen in open court at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.

In his release, Dr Moonilal said, “What was disturbing about this particular hearing is that the Court of Appeal judges caused to be played a video of me, chastising the prime minister for pronouncing on a case in which they were still adjudicating, but did not bother to display the video comments of the prime minister who, in the view of any right thinking citizen, acted with impunity and impropriety by discussing the outcome of a case before the Court of Appeal has ruled on the matter.”

At the hearing EMBD was represented by David Phillips, KC, (virtually from London), Jason Mootoo, SC, Tamara Toolsie instructed by Savitri Sookraj-Beharry.

Appearing for TN Ramnauth, Mr Ramnauth, Kallco, Ramhit and Fides Limited were Ramesh Maharaj, SC, Jagdeo Singh, Jamie Maharaj instructed by Karina Singh and Shastine Mootilal.

Following Dr Rowley’s comments, the contractors’ attorneys wrote to the court saying they were “shock” and “upset” by his statements.

AZP Ad 2 advertise here, banner

They wrote: “Our clients are extremely concerned that it is reported publicly by the political arm of the State that a judgment has been given by the judicial arm of the State against them before they are made aware of the reasoning and the decision of the Court of Appeal.

“They are obviously shocked and very upset about that because of the confidence they have in the judicial arm of the State.

“They have instructed us to write this letter in respect of the public statements made by the political arm of the State that a judgment has been given in their matter by the judicial arm of the State before they were told by the judicial arm of the State that a judgment has been given by it in their appeal.

“We kindly ask that the contents of this letter be brought to the kind attention of the Honourable Panel.”

The letter had also quoted some of the comments of the prime minister.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a press conference

Maharaj told the court that based on what Dr Rowley said, his clients were concerned that a judgement had been delivered in the matter.

The Court of Appeal had reserved its judgement after a hearing on May 26 to June 30.

Justice Mohammed said that Maharaj was in court when the appeal court reserved its decision and asked him if it was reasonable for him to write to the Director of Communications to the prime minister for clarification on his statement.

Maharaj said the statements were made about the court and it was for the court to set the record straight.

Phillips said it was inappropriate for anyone to suggest that the Appeal Court was in league with the government. He said, “We deprecate respectfully what Mr Moonilal said.”

In his release, Dr Moonilal said, “The Prime Minister’s foreknowledge of the outcome of this court matter is inexplicable and strikes at the heart of public confidence in the judiciary upon which our system of justice depends.

“It is the duty of every citizen to speak on these issues and call out perceived attempts to undermine the independence of our judiciary. Let me be clear, I will not be silenced in my fight for democratic values and institutions on behalf of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I will not surrender to tyranny.”

He said he has consulted his attorney, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, and that there is an application to strike out the claim in this matter.

Dr Moonilal added, “That is the subject matter of the appeal. If that appeal succeeds, there is no claim.

“I do not know if Dr Rowley wants me to defend a nonexistent claim and hence my query as to whether he has inside information about the judgment or is attempting to apply pressure on the court.

“His boast that I would have to file a defence preempts the Court of Appeal judgement and is highly improper.”

He said, “While I understand why any sane person would prefer to listen to my contributions as opposed to the Prime Minister, from the exercise conducted by the court today, it appears to me that the Court of Appeal was more concerned with my criticisms of the Prime Minister as opposed to his highly improper comments and actions.

“I would think they would be concerned about the Prime Minister’s statement: ‘The appeal court has ruled in favour of the state enterprise, the EMBD and as we stand here now Mr Moonilal (sic) and others have to put in a defence…’ in circumstances they have given no such ruling, judgment or order.”

He added, “I will continue to demand accountability and transparency from all institutions, and I pray that our last bastion of democracy, what I will refer to as the Peoples’ Judiciary (because it belongs to no Prime Minister, Judge or Chief Justice) has not been compromised.”

“I pray to God that the Judiciary has NOT been politically compromised.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *