Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar during a media conference at her Charles Street, Port of Spain office. – FILE PHOTO/SUREASH CHOLAI
OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has called on the Prime Minister to axe Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, and former AG and current Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi.
She is calling for their firings for the State’s failure to put in a defence against the malicious prosecution claim of nine men who were eventually ordered to be compensated, collectively in the sum of over $20m after being acquitted of the murder of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman.
Shervon Peters, Devon Peters, Anthony Gloster, Joel Fraser, Ronald Armstrong, Keida Garcia, Jameel Garcia, Marlon Trimmingham, and Antonio Charles were among 12 men who went on trial for Naipaul-Coolman’s murder.
On Monday, High Court Master Martha Alexander on Monday awarded each person $2.1 million in damages for malicious prosecution. She also ordered $200,917.56 for exemplary damages and the cost of an expert witness of $68,000.
Additional interest will be added to the damages for each man, at a rate of 2.5 per cent, from May 29, 2020, to January 30, 2023.
In a release issued on Tuesday afternoon, Persad-Bissessar asked why didn’t the former AG (Al-Rawi) and current AG Armour defend the State against the claim of malicious prosecution; and why did they fail to file any evidence to oppose what turned out to be $20m-plus assessment of damages, even after the claim had been filed eight months ago.
She asked, “Were Al-Rawi and Armour asleep at the wheel for eight months?”
She called for a thorough review to determine whether Al-Rawi had an “incompetent and negligent approach to this matter,” and if, “he acted deliberately or recklessly in the discharge of his duties.”
“We call upon the Prime Minister to let Justice Sebastien Ventour and the lawyers who were paid to start the Commission of Enquiry into the Point Fortin Highway (which cannot get off the ground), be given new Terms of Reference to investigate this unprecedented and massive payout to determine what went wrong and why.
“We call upon the DPP and the Acting Commissioner of police to immediately launch an investigation to determine whether Al-Rawi and Armour are guilty of misconduct in public office by virtue of the reckless handling of this matter that has resulted in the highest-ever award of damages for malicious prosecution against the state in legal history.
“It is to be noted that Armour is not free from blame in this matter. As the assessment of damages took place under his tenure after he was appointed as AG,” Persad-Bissessar said.