“The Law Association’s current attempt to stifle legitimate dialogue about matters of public interest—like excessive detentions and the abuse of police powers—is also an affront to the independence of the bar and the rule of law.”
The following Letter to the Editor on the LATT’s response to statements by practising lawyers on the arrest of former attorney general Anand Ramlogan was submitted by Dr Emir Crowne, Senior Lecturer (Mona), Attorney-at-Law & Barrister:
Today, on 30 August, the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago issued a remarkable press release. Among other things, it took issue with statements made by two “practising politicians” with respect to the detention of Anand Ramlogan SC.
The release chides these politicians for doing their job—i.e. politicising issues. The Law Association indicates the comments made by these “practising politicians” would undermine the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.
As stated by the Law Association:
“We take the opportunity as well to express concern about comments made by two practicing politicians who described the detention of Mr Ramlogan as a ploy to distract attention away from the escalating murder rate, the Tobago ferry ‘fiasco’, and the revocation of the appointment of the Minister of Public Utilities. Such accusations call into question the independence of the police service and the Director of Public Prosecutions and undermine public confidence in the administration of justice…”
Too late. The public’s confidence in the administration of justice has been severely undermined in recent times, the most recent of which is the elaborate, Spielberg-esque detention of Mr Ramlogan—one pictures the Range Rovers arriving in Ocean’s Twelve.
Furthermore, let’s not forget the Law Association’s own role in undermining the administration of justice, when select members passed a—meaningless—“no confidence” motion against the Honourable Chief Justice.
The Law Association’s current attempt to stifle legitimate dialogue about matters of public interest—like excessive detentions and the abuse of police powers—is also an affront to the independence of the bar and the rule of law.
The United Nations, in setting out the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, has stated that:
“Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights…” (Adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba 27 August to 7 September 1990).
Worse still, by telling others to not politicise an issue, the Law Association is itself being inherently political. Why are some matters worthy of a rebuke from the Law Association whereas other instances of overt politicisation go unnoticed?
In the end, for me as a member of the Law Association, the contents of the media release are disconcerting. The release seeks to impinge upon the independence of the bar and freedom of speech, two encroachments that directly impact the rule of the law and the proper functioning of a democracy.
In condemning politicisation, the Law Association has committed the very sin it chastised.