The time has come for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to show his true mettle and deal with the bacchanal involving Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
Rowley, according to both Government and legal officials, have enough before him to trigger Section 137 of the constitution and cause an investigation into the conduct of the Chief Justice.
This is even more evident after President Anthony Carmona says he is standing by his decision to allow Archie to go on a six-month sabbatical leave to Washington DC.
Carmona responded to Rowley by letter on Monday evening. This, according to officials, will be his parting shot from the Presidency.
Carmona has been dogged by controversy during his five-year tenure.
He will be replaced by Paula-Mae Weekes next Monday.
Now that Carmona has responded, it is left to be seen to see what Rowley will do. So after, Rowley has shown he is not a leader.
Carmona claimed there was a legitimate expectation of the Chief Justice, based on the debate in Parliament on the 98th report of the Salaries Review Commission, that he was entitled to the leave.
In a brief press release on Tuesday, Rowley said he had had the benefit of senior counsel’s advice after receiving the President’s response and will report to the country on the issue after Cabinet meets on Thursday.
Sources say the President does not have any power to make decisions like the one he made. The President’s powers are limited to what is in the Constitution in respect of appointments. But the Cabinet, under section 75, has the full authority to make decisions on matters of policy.
He explained that no report of the Salaries Review Commission is law.
“For that to be law, to be acted upon by the government, it has to be approved by the Cabinet and implemented by the Cabinet.”
Rowley only found out about Archie’s sabbatical when the President’s Office wrote to him asking if he was okay with Justice Alan Mendonca being appointed to act as Chief Justice. The Prime Minister then wrote to Carmona asking on what authority he approved the sabbatical.
At the request of then acting President Christine Kangaloo, Archie deferred his departure for Washington. But he will depart the country on Wednesday.
Archie wrote to Carmona in November last year requesting the sabbatical leave, indicating that he needed time to rest, reflect and undertake a program of study that will have important implications for the jurisprudence of Trinidad and Tobago as well as other Caribbean states.
He argued that academic writing in the particular area of study that I propose to undertake is almost non-existent. He said the Federal Judicial Centre in Washington DC had approved his application to be its visiting Foreign Judicial Fellow for a period of up to six months.
By letter dated November 6, 2017, the Director of International Judicial Relations Office at the Federal Judicial Centre Mira Gur-Arie wrote to Archie informing him that his application to the center’s Visiting Foreign Judicial Fellows Program had been accepted.
The proposed fellowship she said for a period of 4-6 months beginning in March 2018 was “acceptable.”
Two days later Archie wrote to Carmona seeking permission to be out of the jurisdiction for a six month period from March 11 to August 2018. By letter dated February 5, Carmona approved the sabbatical leave.
However, it was only when the request to the PM was made by President’s House to appoint Justice Alan Mendonca as the acting Chief Justice for the six-month period that the PM became aware that the CJ would be out of the country for the six-month period.
The PM wrote to Carmona asking for answers on his approval of the sabbatical leave.
On Monday in his response, Carmona reaffirmed his decision. On receipt of the response PM Rowley informed the country in a brief press release that he was examining the situation and will report to the country in short order.”
WHAT IS SECTION 137
Under Section 137 (3), the Prime Minister has the power to communicate to the President about investigating whether the judge/Chief Justice should be removed from office.
The process for impeachment of a judge:
The Prime Minister refers a report of misbehaviour to the President.
The President calls a tribunal of eminent judges to investigate the allegation.
The tribunal gets back to the President with the results of their investigation and, if necessary, a recommendation.
Where necessary, the matter is either handled immediately, or taken to the Judicial Committee.
.If suspension of the judge is required, it is at the President’s discretion to revoke the suspension, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister.
ANTHONY CARMONA, LEFT, AND IVOR ARCHIE