Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is calling on the Prime Minister to fire Attorney General Reginald Armour and his predecessor and current Rural Development Minister, Faris Al-Rawi, after their mismanagement and incompetence is now costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Persad-Bissessar’s call follows the State’s failure to put in a defence against the malicious prosecution claim of nine men who were eventually ordered to be compensated, collectively in the sum of over $20 million after being acquitted of the murder of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman.
Shervon Peters, Devon Peters, Anthony Gloster, Joel Fraser, Ronald Armstrong, Keida Garcia, Jameel Garcia, Marlon Trimmingham, and Antonio Charles were awarded $2.1 million each in damages on Monday, by High Court Master Martha Alexander. She also ordered $200,917.56 for exemplary damages and the cost of an expert witness of $68,000.
Persad-Bissessar, via a released statement, said: “The public is entitled to be outraged, angry, and upset that over 20 million dollars which should go towards fixing potholes and solving the crime problem will instead be paid to 9 former murder accused of one of the most horrific murders in this country’s history.”
She said the judgment of the High Court raises several questions that Al-Rawi and Armour must answer:
1. Why did Al-Rawi and Armour not file a Defence to defend the state against this claim of malicious prosecution? Almost 8 months had passed since the claim was filed until Justice Joan Charles was forced to grant judgment in default of Defence. Were Al-Rawi and Armour asleep at the wheel for 8 months?
2. Having not filed a Defence, why did Al-Rawi and Armour not file any evidence to oppose this multi-million-dollar Assessment of Damages? To not file a Defence is one thing but to not file any evidence in opposition to the claim for damages takes even Al-Rawi and Armour’s incompetence to a mind-bogglingly new level.
Persad-Bissessar noted that Al-Rawi has already put the country at risk of losing millions of dollars, re: Nelsongate. “The incompetent and negligent approach to this matter by the former AG must be properly reviewed and interrogated to determine whether he acted deliberately or recklessly in the discharge of his duties.”
She is calling upon the Prime Minister to let Justice Sebastien Ventour and the lawyers who were paid to start the Commission of Enquiry into the Point Fortin Highway (which cannot get off the ground) be given new Terms of Reference to investigate this unprecedented and massive payout to determine what went wrong and why.
The Siparia MP also wants the DPP and the Commissioner of Police to immediately launch an investigation to determine whether Al-Rawi and Armour are guilty of misconduct in public office by virtue of the reckless handling of this matter that has resulted in the highest-ever award of damages for malicious prosecution against the state in legal history.
“It is to be noted that Armour is not free from blame in this matter. As the Assessment of Damages took place under his tenure after he was appointed AG. The question must be asked, “what did he do to prevent this grave travesty of justice that is nothing short of a legal trainwreck?”, she said.
According to Persad-Bissessar: “AG Armour saw this train coming to hit T&T and did absolutely nothing to stop it. His conduct must therefore also be questioned so that his incompetence can be unmasked as this is a case of replacing “bim with bam” to the detriment of the public.”