Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Thursday fired Justice Minister Herbert Volney for misleading Cabinet about the opinions of the chief justice and the director of public prosecutions over the early proclamation of the controversial Clause 34 of the Administration of the Justice (Indictable Offences Act, which was recently passed in both houses of Parliament.
The prime minister said that she had met with Volney and he admitted the error.
Speaking to the nation in a live television broadcast, Persad-Bissessar said: “On behalf of my government I express sincere apologies to the people of T&T, the president, the Parliament, the chief justice and director of public prosecutions.”
Stating that Volney had given erroneous advice to Cabinet, she said; “The minister had a duty to faithfully and accurately represent the position and views of the CJ and the DPP and he failed so to do and the Cabinet relying in good faith, acted on his assurances.
“His failure to do so is a serious misrepresentation and amounts to material non-disclosure of relevant facts to the Cabinet from making an informed decision.’
Volney is the third senor minister to be fired in the People’s Partnership 28-months tenure.
Her statement came two days after Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley and other groups staged a march to President’s House demanding and explanation from her and called for the firing of Volney and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.
The controversial section 34 would have allowed accused people to have their cases thrown out ten years after the commission of the offence, once no trial had begun.
The move created public condemnation when two party financiers Ish Galbaransing and Steve Ferguson became the first to apply to be discharged after it was proclaimed on Aug. 31, 2012.
They were facing fraud and money-laundering charges in relation to the TT$1.6 billion Piarco International Airport project, which was built under the former Basdeo Panday administration in 2000.
Volney had given the assurance that proper mechanisms would be put in place when the Act was passed before it would go into effect on Jan. 2, 2013, but clearly that was not the case.
Volney, a former High Court judge for more than 17 years stepped down from the Bench in 2010 to contest the May 2019 general election under the People’s Partnership banner. He contested the St. Joseph seat, which he won and was appointed Justice Minister – new Ministry announced by PM Persad-Bissessar.
The justice minister has often been a center of controversy- first during his career on the bench and later during his two and a half year as a government minister.
Volney stirred up controversy in his first parliamentary address when he made disparaging remarks about his former boss Chief Justice Ivor Archie, in his contribution to the 2010/2011 budget debate.
In September, he called for murderers to be publicly hanged in Woodford Square, Port of Spain.