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President Paula-Mae Weekes

Attorney Om Lalla believes that President Paula-Mae Weekes has the “moral duty” to explain to the country if she did receive the list of nominees for the substantive appointment of Commissioner of Police, why she did not submit it to the Parliament and also to clear the air over other details of the controversy surrounding the case.

“My view is that the downfall of the Police Service Commission (PSC) has been a very serious matter where a body that holds serious responsibility in the country has been undermined by its conduct in recent times. A list was submitted to the President and the President owes a huge responsibility to act in accordance with the Constitution. In light of the surrounding circumstances that have affected the appointment of a new Police Commissioner and the allegations being made about potential political interference with the list forwarded to the President, it is a huge duty on the part of the President to act and clear the air,” he told the Sunday Guardian.

Lalla said it may not be a complete “legal obligation” for the President to answer as to what happened but she had a “moral obligation” to clear the air in light of the Office of the President being brought into question.

He described former police commissioner Gary Griffith’s lead attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and attorney Martin Daly, SC, as “experienced” lawyers who understood the importance of the President of the Republic, a former judge informing the country of what had really happened.

Lalla said “The President is the person who is meant to be the highest office holder and she should address the issue and bring the population’s fears to rest.

“Failing to address it and then the matter becoming litigious and going to court and even the action or inaction of the President if it is ventilated before a court does nothing to restore confidence.

“The President has a legal responsibility if she received the list to forward it to Parliament and if she has not done that, she has failed in her legal duty.”

He added that if she failed to carry out her responsibilities in a lawful manner, only the court will decide what the consequences would be.

Isreal Khan: She must tell the truth

Senior Counsel Israel Khan, meanwhile, said that the public did not actually know if the list was handed to her, so there were many questions to be answered.

“However, if the list was handed to her and the Prime Minister or another Cabinet Minister was involved with this, it creates the impression that the President is compromising the independence of the Presidency and the Judicial Legal Service Commission,” Khan said.

“If in fact she handed back the list to the chairman of the Judicial Legal Service Commission in order to clear up certain allegations I do not see that as sufficient for the President’s integrity to be called into question.”

Based on what has happened, Khan took the position as some other members of the legal fraternity that the President must tell the public the truth so as to clear her name and restore confidence in public institutions.

“We are given the impression and it might be a false impression that the President has a good explanation of what happened. If she does not come out and say something then she gives the impression she is keeping her mouth shut because she wants a second term of office,” he said.

Khan said he had known the President for many years and described her as being “impeccable, independent, and strong.”

He also said there were no legal grounds to remove her from office.

“Legally people can talk but there is no sufficient legal ground to remove her,” Khan said.

In a media release on Thursday, Maharaj, the lead attorney for Griffith said the President must say why she failed to submit the list of nominees for the substantive appointment of CoP and deputy commissioner to the Parliament for approval, when she received it almost two months ago on August 12.

Maharaj said on receiving the list, the President was constitutionally mandated to issue a notification to the Parliament for approval.

“The President has a duty to explain to the public why, upon receiving the list of nominees from the commission on August 12, she elected not to perform her constitutional duty under section 123 (4) of the Constitution, to submit the requisite notifications to the House of Representatives for its approval,” Maharaj said.

Last Wednesday, former independent senator Martin Daly, SC, called on Weekes to say what took place on August 12 at the Office of the President which eventually led to the total collapse of the PSC when all three members and its chairman, Bliss Seepersad resigned within days.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaking during the post-Budget debate last Friday revealed she had written a letter to the President, co-signed by all 19 United National Congress MPs calling on the President to provide much-needed answers to a series of questions on the matter.