As the country delved into the ‘what’s in a name’ theatrics involving the Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last week, an even more compelling development affecting the core of this country’s democracy was taking place.
It involves the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, the titular head of the bar and the only officeholder who along with the Prime Minister is required under the constitution to form the cabinet.
Senior Counsel Reginald Armour took up the post less than three months ago but is already mired in a controversy that has far-reaching implications. Some legal luminaries are suggesting the circumstances should cause him to tender his resignation.
While the AG has opted for silence in the matter, it is of concern that allegations have been made suggesting that the titular head of the bar is accused of telling patent untruths in an affidavit filed in a foreign court without consequence. The AG must of his own volition realize that this could adversely affect the administration of justice and that silence at this point is not in the best interest of the country or the government.
The genesis of the matter is the AG’s involvement in the Piarco Airport case, which ironically is twenty years plus in the hearing. According to allegations, the AG made submissions on behalf of his clients in the Preliminary Inquiry (PI) but has subsequently sworn to an affidavit in the US that he was a mere note-taker.
The AG’s plays a critical role in upholding the rule of law and the national interest.
If, as is being alleged, the AG was not upfront and honest in this matter, then it goes against the oath he took to uphold the constitution and the law and is also at odds with the Code of Ethics outlined in the Legal Professions Act.
The Code speaks to an attorney maintaining the integrity, honour, and dignity of the legal profession and encouraging other attorneys to act similarly both in the practice of their profession and in their private life. It also states clearly that the attorney “shall refrain from conduct which is detrimental to the profession, or which may tend to discredit it.”
The AG is accused of trivializing his role as a defence counsel for Brian Kuei Tung by claiming that he served as a Junior attorney. if there is truth in the allegations that the Attorney General misrepresented himself as a junior lawyer before a Miami Court whose representation was deemed ‘false,’ this would be of grave concern.
Senior Counsel Martin Daly writing in the Trinidad Express on June 5th noted that the matter appeared to have been ‘badly handled’ by Armour. He opined that if the reports are true then ‘serious and embarrassing mistakes have been made.’
Though the matter has now been reassigned to former AG Faris Al-Rawi, Daly said ‘these mistakes may complicate the validity of the reassignment of the matter.’
This is not a simple issue and goes to the heart of the legal profession. It’s been more than a week and while the AG has opted for silence, this undermines confidence and trust in the office, the justice system and by extension the government.
In this country, everyone deems everything political and the Prime Minister in all probability may well accuse the UNC of playing politics with this, that is par for the course.
But this is a serious matter and Mr Armour as a well-respected senior counsel, former head of the law association and now attorney general he must be well aware of the significance of the matter and his silence only compounds the matter. What the country needs is truth, honesty and integrity in the leadership.
If we cannot expect this from the attorney general Then what can we expect from others?