PNM consultation: Should timely criminal trials be a constitutional right?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

LET’S TALK: (From left) Farai Hove Masaisai, Lennox Rattansingh, Keith Scotland and Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal, at the head table at the PNM constitutional reform south consultation at San Fernando City Hall, Harris Promenade on June 8. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

Keith Scotland, chairman of the People’s National Movement (PNM) internal constitutional reform committee, was pleased with the response and input from those who attended the consultation on June 8 in San Fernando.

He said the committee accomplished so much in two hours. They not only discussed the constitution but also allowed supporters to air their views, which would be documented and submitted to the PNM’s position on constitutional reform and change.

“We got through all that we needed to get through, and I was very moved with the crowd that braved the weather and came out,” Scotland told reporters after the consultation ended at the San Fernando City Hall, Harris Promenade.

Without giving details, the attorney and Port of Spain South MP said some of the views raised related to the possibility of an executive president, the first-past-the-post voting system, the service commissions department, the Salaries Review Commission, individual constitutional rights and the protection of children’s rights.

“We are seriously considering a recommendation of whether or not we have to put the right to education in the constitution and the views on the criminal justice system, whether or not it is time to put, not just the right to a fair trial, but the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.”

“It is serious business we are about here. We are about high issues of law.”

In addressing faster trials, he recalled the Administration of Justice Indictable Act 2011 (AJIPA) system, which is geared toward clearing the backlog of cases.

The Act was proclaimed on December 12, 2023, by President Christine Carla Kangaloo.

A feature of this new system includes indictable cases going straight to a master in the High Court.

In the past, accused people had to undergo a preliminary inquiry (PI) to determine if they must stand trial at the High Court. It took many years for a PI to be completed.

Scotland said the AJIPA system shows that the Government is doing its part in the fight against crime.

“Remember, we believe in the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. That is part of our Constitution,” he added.

Other PNM representatives were attorney and PNM senator Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal, attorney Farai Hove Masaisai, Lennox Rattansingh, Dr Jeremy Inniss and Solange De Souza.

San Fernando mayor Robert Parris, Les Efforts East/Cipero councillor Ryaad Hosein also attended.