PORT OF SPAIN –– Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night called on Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Joan Honore-Paul to step aside in the Emailgate matter over a statement she made on the issue last week.
Her comments came hours after Attorney General Garvin Nicholas expressed his disappointment and concern over Honore-Paul’s judgment last week in criticizing Persad-Bissessar for suggesting she and her colleagues had been cleared in the probe when the case was still open.
During a cottage meeting in Tunapuna yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said she had asked her lawyers to peruse the deputy DPP’s statement and they would now call on her to recuse herself from the matter since she had demonstrated a clear bias.
She said her lawyers had also advised her that Honore-Paul had trespassed on the constitutional remit of the Police Service and the Integrity Commission.
Earlier, in a strongly worded response, Nicholas appealed to Honore-Paul to maintain the independence of the office of the DPP, saying the prime minister was well within her right to defend her name in the matter. He said he was troubled by the tenor of Honore-Paul’s comments, particularly her statement that “no man should be a judge in his own cause”, as this could leave a reasonable reader with the perception that there was indeed a case to be answered before the courts.
“This is of particular concern given, as you have said, that the investigations are not yet complete. You would no doubt agree that this would impact upon public perception of the independence and competence of the office of the DPP,” Nicholas wrote.
He also expressed concern that Honore-Paul’s response was made available to the media prior to her communicating any of her concerns to him.
Pointing out that while she telephoned him at 6:55 p.m, on May 13 informing him a copy of her letter would be faxed to his office, which she subsequently did (but which he saw only the next day), social media sites were reporting its contents from 6 p.m. that said day.
Nicholas told Honore-Paul that since he had assumed office he had maintained a very cordial and professional working relationship with the DPP’s office as line minister.
He said he had a number of meetings with DPP Roger Gaspard to discuss a range of issues, especially those related to increasing the efficiency of the office and the welfare of the staff. Gaspard had earlier recused himself from presiding over the matter because he was named in the emails.
Nicholas said yesterday at no time during those meetings was he approached either by the DPP or Honore-Paul to discuss the issue referenced.
“As such, you would no doubt understand my disappointment and concern for your judgment, as a senior public officer, in taking your concerns to the media before first addressing these concerns directly with me,” he said.
Honore-Paul’s letter, issued last Wednesday, slammed the prime minister’s haste to clear herself and former attorney general Anand Ramlogan in the Emailgate matter first raised in the Parliament by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley in 2013 and which has become subject of an investigation by the police and Integrity Commission.
Honore-Paul had noted the use of information provided to the local police by the United States Department of Justice in defence of the allegations, saying it was unfortunate this information was being made public.
She cautioned that parallel investigations and the public airing of the supposed results were palpably self serving and suggested no man should be a judge in his own cause.
But Nicholas reminded her that no criminal prosecutions had been instituted against any of the individuals concerned in the email disclosures.
“These matters are still within the investigatory realm of the Police Service. The reputation of those persons have been called into question and it is entirely open to them to seek publicly swift vindication. You are reminded that this investigation was initiated by the prime minister for this very reason.”
He suggested no organ of the state ought to discourage or in any way threaten the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression without lawful justification.
“I consider it my duty to respectfully remind you to operate within your constitutional purview to ensure that the fundamental rights and freedoms of accused persons are not threatened by your statements or action,“ he stated.