Lawyers representing political and social activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj have requested that Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi disclose the legal advice he received over a decision not to disclose the fees paid by his office to private attorneys for legal work for the State.
Speaking at a press conference, earlier this week, Al-Rawi declined to make the disclosure as he said that such was not required based on legal advice provided to his office by Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein.
In a letter sent to Al-Rawi yesterday, Maharaj’s lawyer Ganesh Saroop questioned the impartiality of Hosein’s advice as he pointed out that he (Hosein) was among attorneys, who were retained by Al-Rawi’s Office to represent the State in profile cases.
“It is ironic to say the least that you would have paid Mr Hosein, SC, for a legal opinion designed to advise you whether you should disclose the cost of legal opinions given to the State,” Saroop said. “It creates the perception that you were seeking advice to support a preconceived position against disclosure of this information from a person who would benefit financially from the same,” Saroop added, as he requested the advice and the invoice submitted by Hosein.
He noted that Hosein had also provided legal advice to Al-Rawi over the report compiled by the Commission of Enquiry into the Las Alturas Housing Development in Morvant.
“His advice has been used by you as political cover and justification in a number of instances,” Saroop said, as he claimed that it was used to challenge the veracity of the commission’s findings.
Saroop suggested that Al-Rawi could not claim that the material was exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and said even if it was, it would fall under Section 35 of the legislation, which provides for exempted material being provided once there is sufficient public interest warranting such disclosure.
He stated that lawyers should not be concerned by such disclosure provided their claims were above board.
Saroop said that he expected the disclosure within a reasonable time and would file a lawsuit if it is not provided.
Maharaj’s request comes after lawyers representing a woman from Diego Martin, who successfully sued the State in a landmark case over her two children being detained in adult prisons after being charged with murder, requested that Al-Rawi disclose the fees paid to the State attorneys in her case after he repeatedly bemoaned the costs incurred.
In her letter, attorney Jayanti Lutchmedial, who represents Karen Mohammed questioned why Al-Rawi did not settle the case which was upheld by the High Court and most recently by the Privy Council.