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Dear Editor: AG Al-Rawi was out of line and unprofessional in response to Senator Hosein

“The Attorney General occupies the second or third highest office in our nation. To use that office to suggest that a fellow member of the legal profession be de-credentialed simply because he disagrees with their statement is appalling.

“This is not about politics. It is about civility and basic professionalism.”

The following Letter to the Editor on Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s rebuke of Opposition Senator Saddam Hosein was submitted to Wired868 by barrister and attorney-at-law, Dr Emir Crowne:

Photo: Attorney general Faris Al-Rawi.

In a post-Cabinet meeting on 8 November 2018, the Honourable Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi indicated that the law degree of the Honourable Senator Saddam Hosein should be revoked. This sensational rebuke was apparently in response to the Senator’s suggestion that under the proposed Income Tax (Amendment) Bill 2018 a taxpayer’s tax information could be shared with a foreign government for even “a cuss case”.

I will deal with the merits of the Senator’s comment in passing. The more pressing matter is the uncivil and unprofessional suggestion that the Senator’s law degree should be revoked.

The statement on its own smacks of incivility, but for it to be uttered by the Attorney General, himself an attorney-at-law, is scandalous. It should not be countenanced or glossed over.

The Attorney General occupies the second or third highest office in our nation. To use that office to suggest that a fellow member of the legal profession be de-credentialed simply because he disagrees with their statement is appalling. This is not about politics. It is about civility and basic professionalism.

That the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago has been noticeably silent on this issue should also not be overlooked. The Law Association should defend the independence of the bar with vigour and promptness. Lawyers are allowed to make controversial statements, especially when those statements are intended to further the legislative process.

Photo: Opposition Senator Saddam Hosein.
(Copyright Newsday)

The Law Association should have taken a strong stance against any suggestion that the credentials of a lawyer—let alone a sitting Senator—be revoked for mere disagreement. That they have not done so is disappointing.

In the end, it is probably true that a bare “cuss case” would unlikely trigger the serious criminality required under the Bill. However, it is also true that if that ‘cuss’ was accompanied by additional information—for example, “tell dem how yuh does go to de Middle East every year with gun man and money!”—then, stereotyping aside, that may indeed trigger the serious criminality provisions under the Bill.

So, while the Senator may have been a little sensational, this is his job. He is entitled to test the bounds of seemingly innocuous legislation. The AG’s role, in turn, is to respond with the decorum and civility that befits both his office and his role as an attorney.

In a country and political system where ‘bacchanal sells’, we must insist that our office holders rise above such pettiness.

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35 comments

  1. It’s very interesting that the Mr Crowne chose to speak of what Senator Hussein said ‘in passing’ and attributes his statements to him being a ‘little sensational’ as he tests the bounds of ‘seemingly innocuous legislation.’ Yet, he chose not to address why the AG would make such a strong statement. From what I gathered from the AG’s presser, Senator Hussein either attempted to deliberately deceive the population or demonstrated gross incompetence in his interpretation of the Bill according to the AG. Either scenario could have a disastrous effect with a significant portion if they choose to accept what Senator Hussein said as fact. It may have been better if Mr Crowne had chosen to clarify/defend Senator Hussein instead of treating it as ‘dais small ting’. Senator Hussein was basically accused of lying to the population; Mr Crowne could have clarified that, but he chose not to.

    • Richard Zen O’Brien can you point us to what the Senator said that was grounds for being disbarred with the specific clause he violated and penalty?
      You can debate what the Senator said if you like but why should everyone only debate what you’d like them to?
      Why shouldn’t an attorney start a chat about an AG suggesting that an attorney be disbarred?

    • Lasana simple because no one should challenge a person who belongs to “my” tribe

    • Lasana Liburd, it was not that the AG called for him to be disbarred, that was not in his statement and you should not be peddling in what the AG DID NOT say. (That’s how fake news starts..someone else would run and and say the AG called for the Senator to be disbarred.) The AG was being critical of the Senator, calling his credentials into question as, according to him, the Senator seemed to understand basic ‘101s’ in treaty the Bill. It was no different where we question whether certain footballers have any right on the field when they demonstrate a lack basic high school football practices. Again, he was calling him out on his apparent ignorance…Mr Crowne could have addressed that. Again, please refrain front saying the AG called for him to be disbarred…that’s fake news.

    • Richard Zen O’Brien can you see a difference between suggesting something and calling for something to be done?
      Because what I said is written in black and white and the sentence isn’t long. Yet you misquote me and then, ironically, accuse me of peddling fake news.

    • Lasana Liburd aite dude, I’m cool…that’s how you and Mr Crowne choose to see it and I made my point.

    • It might have been helpful to put an actual link to the quotes from both Hosein and the AG. Because the substance of what was said by either party is kind of buried in the article criticizing the AGs response. I did not see the discourse in the senate myself. But from Richards comment it seems like a simple case of Al Rawi telling a fellow attorney “boy yuh talking stupidness!”. People do that often enough. We all wonder sometimes how they got their “degree” 🤔.

    • Rose-Marie Lemessy-Forde, ah mean, it’s as clear as day. But that point gets glossed away when no one addresses the allegation made by the AG.

    • Rose-Marie except he didn’t say “boy yuh talkin chupidness”. If he had stuck to that there wouldn’t be a discussion.
      You know how Trump always says ridiculous things and then his handlers go on TV and say “well what the president really meant to say was…”

    • Lasana Liburd well let me see if I could find what Sadam said and what the AG said. Wish crowne ha included it verbatim. That’s the only way to evaluate if his letter to the editor has merit. But he addressed the details “in passing”

    • Rose-Marie there is a hyperlink to another response to the AG. Not sure if no newspaper wrote on his actual comment. But, yeah, that would have been helpful.

  2. I’m not against people supporting one party or the other. That’s fine.
    But I’ve always wanted this to be a space where people debate things on the merit of each topic.
    Not just take a position based on whether the topic is advantageous or not to their tribe.
    And worse, to try and insult or intimidate anyone who took a different position.
    That’s trolling. Whether you do it with racial slurs and obscene language, or simply by placing irrelevant “facts”… the only difference is whether you’re a repulsive troll or a sophisticated one.
    Absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing. All I ask is people consider the merits and demerits of an argument and discuss those.
    If you’re unable to do so, then you don’t have to comment for the sake of it.
    I often learn from reading thoughtful comments and I keep my tail quiet if I have nothing to add. No shame in that…

    • Lasana, the page is yours. Do what yuh want with it. But doh try to dictate what people say or not. You’d NEVER get ALL to agree on ANY topic. Doh be selective either. Tell that to the “elites” to.

    • Garvin you’re missing my point. I’m going to take that as unintentional.
      I do NOT want this space to an echo chamber. I never have.
      Disagreement is healthy. All I say is that before ppl comment, they should consider the point being made and not try to debate a totally different matter.
      It would help if our starting point wasn’t “the PNM invented corruption” or “the UNC are racist witches”.
      Because then you’d never be able to give a balanced opinion.
      But honestly the group isn’t supposed to be about defending or attacking either party.
      It is about Trinidad and Tobago issues.

    • I didn’t raise any issue on China.

    • Garvin I didn’t really mean to single you out. although I don’t think the fact that UNC was caught corruptly padding legal briefs during their term in office has anything to do without the AG should be civil with a opposition senator who is a lawyer.
      So I don’t think you were relevant there. But the comment I made wasn’t just a dig at you or anything like that. It really was for the group.

    • Lasana Liburd – you have created a space where many ideas and topics can be ventilated. The ideal you shared, (“But I’ve always wanted this to be a space where people debate things on the merit of each topic. Not just take a position based on whether the topic is advantageous or not to their tribe. “), is not possible in today’s TT – unfortunately. I have long lamented the departure of our ability and willingness to discuss issues, and referred to it as the de-intellectualization of our country. It’s easy to see how this has evolved (another topic). I personally find it hard to engage most of the commentators to these topics because I leave the discussion, having read nothing of worth but insults, slurs, vitriol and half-baked historical views.

      I applaud you, I would have shut down the site months ago.

  3. AG……The Government’s Lawyer of Everything.

  4. Hmmmmm the same Crowne who said that the LATT was outta place to scold 2 AAL for talking about Ramlogans’ arrest? OK then…. Maybe my focus lil different yes. While I take note of the concerns, I am much more focused on the mess in the Judicial System and the part played by attorneys. Having been there, I know what I’ve seen and these Learned people have lots to answer. So too, do the Police and the Management of the Judiciary

  5. Much ado about nothing in my opinion. The AG responded rhetorically to what he perceived to be misleading comments from someone who is expected to know better. The author should be familiar with the highly sensational and adversarial manner in which our parliamentarians conduct themselves and therefore should not believe that the AG as titular head of the Bar was seriously considering having the Senator de-credentialed. Seeking the LATT intervention in this is quite hilarious …

  6. A difference of opinion or an unquestionable misinterpretation of basic law. As with Section 34 and the many electoral victories declared by Kamla when in fact she lost, we have to truly wonder if the “fake” legal interpretations are intended to dumb down the ordinary man.

    • Michele Celestine exactly. The opposition owes us a duty to ensure there are proper checks and balance on the government. Part of that duty is to disseminate precise information. Secondly, as an attorney he is called upon to use his expertise. He was not asked to comment on something outside of his expertise.

  7. So wuh? Ent Ramdeen discredited Al Rawi to? He had dih NERVE, even after Sir David Colman had expressed “concerns” in a letter to President “Powers”, stating “that of the three local attorneys, two proved to be so incompetent, inexperience and lacking any sense of professional responsibility, that they became unavailable or partially available”.
    To ad insult to injury, Ramdeen was paid $5,865,468.00 as a JUNIOR attorney and Debideen $4,955,000.00. Two shit-snakes made almost $10.000,000.00 between dem. Thanks to deh pardner An’ Ram.
    That’s how those shameless, unremorseful bandits were spending this country’s money, making multi-millionaires out of deh very close friends and associates. But deh questioning the pay-package of the CEO of Heritage Petroleum, of TT$2.9 million.Deh have dih GALL!

    • Nicole Caesar doh worry wit dem. On wuh basis deh jumping on yuh back? The UNC believes that the more lawyers they have in both Houses, gives them the “edge”. But check deh background. And when deh could give dehself “Silk” and “represent” dead people and STILL occupy the senate, tells you EXACTLY what they’re made of. Blame the Queen of Deceit fuh dat. That Witch.

    • Hopefully one day you will realise that nothing you said has anything to do with the column.
      Or is the intention merely to move the goalposts and try to get people to discuss something else entirely?

    • “Shift the goalpost”? It’s relevant. I referring to the subject, maybe not the way you want it. It spoke of the lawyers that the UNC hires for senatorial positions and as MPs. They just have the title. Not much beyond that.But you have your opinion and I have mine.

    • Garvin the conversation is about whether the AG’s response to a senator (who is also a lawyer) was civil and in keeping with his office.
      Nothing about whether someone is a good or bad lawyer or how much they earned is relevant.

  8. Another case of the AG’s mouth engaging before his brain was in gear. Dr Crowne is too kind in his criticism.

  9. Al rawi himself is a third rate lawyer. Has he ever won any trial of note?

  10. I’m glad that Emir spoke up on this.

  11. Any man that can perform a karate kata at a function to honour Chinese can say pretty much whatever he wants.