Government can expect pressure on the proposals to pass the Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial by Judge Alone) Bill, 2017.
At a news conference held on Sunday at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Charles Street, Port of Spain, Senators Gerald Ramdeen and Wayne Sturge accused Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of seeking to intrude on the absolute right of any citizen committed to stand trial on indictment to have a trial by a jury.
He cited Al-Rawi’s removal of the requirement for the special majority on the Marriage Bill and his signal, during the debate, that because he didn’t have the confidence that the Opposition would support future legislation the Government planned to bring to the House, the Government would in future introduce legislation without the requirement for a three-fifths majority.
Ramdeen said Al Rawi had kept that promise over the last two weeks, introducing the Indictable Offences (Pretrial Procedure) Bill, which seeks to remove the need for preliminary inquiries without the requirement for a special majority and has now introduced the Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial by Judge Alone) Bill, 2017, also without the need for a special majority.
Ramdeen said the amendments made to existing legislation by the Government are very far-reaching and the bill is “fundamentally flawed.” He said it does not take into consideration the separation of powers nor the fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens and it doesn’t properly consider the Constitution as a whole. “And what the Opposition wants to signal today is that it is a very dangerous path because one doesn’t know where the attorney general and this Rowley-led Government is going to stop.
He added, “Today, they bring legislation to intrude on the right to a trial by jury, tomorrow they might intrude on the right to vote, the next day they might intrude on your right to liberty. Where is it going to stop?”
He said the Indictable Offences (Pretrial Procedure) Bill was introduced in the House with less than one week’s notice and the Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial By Judge Alone) Bill, 2017 has also been brought to the House with less than one week’s notice.