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Dear Editor: Weekes weak week; an illegal appointment can’t be ‘redressed’

I note with some amusement that President Paula-Mae Weekes ‘suddenly discovered’ an error was made in the paperwork leading up to the appointment of Judge Charmaine Pemberton as a member of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC).

“She explained what the error was: ‘While the relevant instrument of appointment indeed indicated that the Honourable Justice had been appointed, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (b) of subsection (3) of section 110 of the Constitution, the letters of consultation to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition dated 21st July, 2017, and which preceded the appointment, referred to section 110 (3) (a)’.” [Newsday 23/02/2019]

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago President Paula-Mae Weekes.
(Copyright CNC3)

Being an irreverent and sceptical criticiser of political figures, I now have to ask if the following persons were asleep during the last few years this matter was winding its way through the courts?

  1. The Prime Minister
  2. The Opposition Leader
  3. The ex-President
  4. The current President
  5. The Chairman of the JLSC/Chief Justice

A whole team of knowledgeable lawyers took this all the way to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (PC) and no one ‘discovered’ the error until now? I for one believe that when the case was researched for presenting through the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and finally the Privy Council, any genuine error would have been unearthed. Not that it matters.

Justice Pemberton remains illegally appointed. It matters not what the ‘letters of consultation to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition’ say. The fact that her appointment was made under s110(3)(b) in her ‘instrument of appointment’ clearly makes it illegal—ultra vires or ‘outside the law’—when it was made, and still remains so.

The sceptic in me tends to believe that a bit of jiggery-pokery is being done to save the face of Justice Pemberton, and/or Presidents Carmona and Weekes. Not to mention to avoid a constitutional mess where appointments made by the JLSC could be considered null and therefore prisoners could challenge convictions and sentences from those who were appointed to the bench during this period.

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) addresses Chief Justice Ivor Archie during her inauguration ceremony at NAPA on 19 March 2018.
(Copyright Office of the President)

An illegal appointment can’t be ‘redressed’ as President Weekes would have us believe. That appointment was ‘frozen in time’ when it was made years ago and now any redress lies outside the powers the President thinks she has.

For those who wonder why I am making a big deal out of this, I ask you to consider that decisions made by an illegal JLSC would themselves be illegal. So, any judge appointed by an illegal JLSC is not legally sitting in office, and all of his sentences and decisions are up for review.

This is the constitutional mess the country finds itself in.

About Mohan Ramcharan

Mohan Ramcharan is a Trinidadian living in England, an LLB (Hons) law graduate, systems thinking practitioner, and critical thinker. He is a product of two cultures and strives to be ethical and impartial in his thoughts and actions.

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  1. But she did not say she had any powers to fix it

    • I suggest you reread her statement and then find a dictionary to look up what ‘redress’ means. In the original reporting, she is quoted:

      “Weekes also thanked Maharaj for his “astute observation,” adding, “rest assured that I will move to redress this situation at the earliest.”

      Commonsense ought to tell you two things:

      1) If she is the only person authorised to make the appointment according to the Constitution, then she is the only person who is authorised to ‘fix’ it.

      2) If she is ‘moving to redress’ the situation, she is implying she has powers to do so.

      There are 2 possible ways that this can go. Either Pemberton gets enlightenment and realises her appointment is putting the President in a vice, and thus Pemberton resigns. Or, the President acknowledges that the ‘error’ cannot be redressed and she needs to declare Pemberton’s appointment as void.

      Bear in mind that it is not the letters of consultation that is important, but the actual instrument of appointment. Of course, many more weeks might pass before this sinks home with the President, so expect more fireworks.

  2. Mr Ramcharan has hit the nail on the head. Expanding on what he says, it would appear that perhaps millions of TT dollars were spent, for dem fellas in Englan’ (dee Privy Congcil), tuh mark we copybook – when dee so-called error was right under dee noses of numerous esteemed legal minds since 2017.

    It eh no error pardners – it being passed off as a simple typographical error (or whatever), and eef one believes dat one must have been born dis mornin’! But yuh doh need to be no legal mind to read plain English and understand dee difference between 110(3)a and 110(3)b. All yuh wouldah need was basic understanding of English grammar, and half-working brain. Dem fellas in Englan’ must have had a good laugh at we. when dey retired to deliberate on dis t’ing.

    Well, I eh born dis mornin’! Dis whole mess bears many of the hallmarks of the Reshmi Ramnarine promotion in the SIA back in 2011. See ‘The Saga of Close Personal Relationships’ in case allyuh fellas forget nuh. http://www.jumbieswatch.com/2011/01/saga-of-close-personal-relationships.html

    But underlying all dat, is the cultural phenomenon of viekeevie! Eh heh? Allyuh eh know bout dat? Come nah man. Dis is how on dee Rock yuh could do dee business (of any sort) any ol’ how yuh want. And when dat attitude reach to the Constitutional level, it caused the grandmama and grandpapa of all mess.

    Dee Rock (aka Trinidad) will be the laughing stock of the world – againnnn!