Sturge challenges Law Association President to explain delay in signing certificate for British QC

Monday, November 2, 2015 - 20:00

Attorney-at-law Wayne Sturge is insisting that the Court of Appeal was forced to delay proceedings by 45 minutes on Monday in the Election Petition case, as a result of what he says is "the failure and/or refusal of the President of the Law Association to sign the certificate of fitness to facilitate British Queen’s Counsel, Mr. Timothy Straker’s admission to the local bar".

Sturged issued a statement to the media Tuesday afternoon, questioning whether the actions by the Law Association President were deliberate.

The following is Sturge's complete media statement:

"I feel compelled to respond to the misleading press release issued by the President of the Law Association, Mr. Reginald Armour, SC. The truth of the matter is that the Court of Appeal was forced to delay the commencement of yesterday’s hearing of the Appeal Proceedings in the Election’s Petitions by more than 45 minutes. This delay was a direct result of the failure and/or refusal of the President of the Law Association to sign the certificate of fitness to facilitate British Queen’s Counsel, Mr. Timothy Straker’s admission to the local bar to enable him to appear in Court and represent his clients.

In a case of such obvious great national importance, it is difficult to understand what can only be construed as an attempt by the President of the Law Association to frustrate the petitioners in such a politically sensitive matter. It is no secret that Mr. Armour S.C is a supporter of the People’s Nation Movement (PNM) and also a PNM lawyer who regularly appears for the party and its leader. Indeed, until recently, he was the lead attorney for the political leader of the PNM. These events confirm our worst concerns and fears that Mr. Armour S.C lacks the necessary independence to hold the office of the President of the Law Association. It is clear that there is a great danger that his political association can influence and cloud his judgments on matters concerning the administration of justice and the legal profession. This situation is made wholly worse when one adds to this unhappy situation that the vice president of the Association is now the holder of a politically appointed post. He is therefore ill-suited for such an office and should do the decent and Honorable thing and resign in the public interest.

The Law Association was notified in writing of Mr. Straker’s Q.C intended admission since 23rd October 2015. The required fees were paid on Friday the 30th October 2015 because only on the 28th October 2015 did the Association indicate to the Respondent the correct fees to be paid. The document should have been signed by the President on the very day that the fees were accepted by the Law Association. It is therefore incumbent on Mr. Armour SC to explain why it took a number of days to sign such a simple document and whether he was influenced or pressured by any political agents into delaying and frustrating this simple process. Why did he have to be reminded on several occasions of the need to sign the document and why if he could not sign the document did he wait until after the proceedings in the Court of Appeal were to commence to direct that the document be signed by someone else on his behalf.

At yesterday’s proceedings, there were over twenty (20) lawyers in the Court including several eminent Silk and three former Attorney Generals of Trinidad and Tobago (Mr. Russell Martineau SC, Mr. John Jeremie SC, and Mr. Anand Ramlogan SC). The panel comprised the three most senior Judges of the Court of Appeal and was chaired by the Honourable Chief Justice. The Court was forced to wait, as a matter of professional courtesy, for over forty-five (45) mins until Mr. Straker Q.C. could be admitted in the interest of justice. This of course could never have happened if Mr. Amour took thirty (30) seconds to sign a one page document that is fairly routine.

The Law Association has always been an independent institution and an essential institution the plays an important part in securing and protecting the democracy that we all enjoy. There have been many examples since his appointment as President of the Association that has had the effect or could have the effect of destroying the independence that this institution has been known to uphold since its establishment.

Mr. Armour S.C attempts to do damage control by saying that the document was signed and he was in Court to welcome Mr. Straker Q.C to the local bar. He deliberately omitted to mention the fact that he was late and kept the entire court waiting for over forty-five ( 45) mins, that he did not in fact sign the documents, but eventually authorized the Secretary of the Law Association to do so and that he was not, in fact there in Court for the purpose of welcoming Mr. Straker Q.C to the local bar, but rather for a court case in which he was involved.

In the circumstances, I wish to ask Mr. Armour S.C the following questions:

1) Why did you refuse to sign this document since the 30th October 2015 when the relevant fees were paid to the Law Association;

2) Why did you not simply authorize the Secretary of the Law Association to sign on your behalf as you eventually did when you authorized the Secretary to do so;

3) Was this a deliberate attempt to frustrate Mr. Straker’s Q.C admission and if so, why?"