Kamla Persad-Bissessar challenges AG further on ArcelorMittal representation

Date: 
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 - 00:00

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has posed more questions to Attorney General Faris Al Rawi, in a statement calling for transparency with regard to his former legal representation of ArcelorMittal.

The Opposition Leader issued this statement today.

"I am happy that Attorney General Faris Al Rawi has publicly admitted that he has a conflict of interest because ArcelorMittal (AM) was his client. However, whilst the AG claims that he recused himself due to his conflict interest, the public record suggests otherwise. I am, therefore puzzled by his statements that he remained silent on the issue of AM’s closure and non-payment of benefits when in fact his Cabinet colleague confirmed that she was seeking his advice. An example of a media report to this effect can be found here:

 “Be that as it may Minister yesterday indicated her intention to confer with Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and yesterday would not rule out legal action, saying the Government will explore “all options” available to it.”

(Source: http://www.newsday.co.tt/politics/0,226096.html)

This report was never refuted or denied by the AG who is now distancing himself from the matter only after I publicly raised this issue.  Mr. Al Rawi also indicated that Minister Stuart Young had also recused himself from this matter. This raises more questions than answers. In the interest of transparency, I call upon the AG to clarify the following matters and provide the public with answers:

1.     Why did you not publicly declare that you had a conflict of interest in relation to AM prior to my raising it?

2.     Why did you not inform the public that you and Minister Young had recused yourselves from all matters pertaining to AM?

3.     If both you and Minister Young recused yourselves, who was the legal advisor to Cabinet when the issue of AM was discussed?

It is strange that the usually loquacious AG remained silent on the conflict of interest and recusal by not informing the dismissed workers and that he could not be of any assistance to them because he had in fact assisted AM. This can be construed as a betrayal of the public trust, given the pleas from the desperate workers who were publicly begging him to intervene on their behalf.

Now that Mr. Al Rawi has confirmed that AM remained his client up until the 2015 General Election, it is difficult to conceive that as the company’s legal adviser, he would not have known about the imminent shut down of the company and the plan to avoid paying the workers their benefits. In light of these circumstances it begs the question whether he gave any advice to AM as to how it could shut down its operations and escape paying benefits to their workers.

In the interest of accountability and in order to clarify the serious questions raised by these troubling revelations, perhaps Mr. Al Rawi and the Prime Minister’s former personal attorney Mr. Reginald Armour SC should consider disclosing all legal fees paid to them by AM so that the public can judge whether there is any truth to the allegation that exorbitant legal fees, beyond what may usually be incurred for such legal work, were demanded and received as a masked method of contributing to the PNM’s election campaign.

As the truth of the matter is yet to be definitively determined, I expect that the AG would do everything in his power to account to the nation in response to these allegations and restore public trust and confidence in the Office of the Attorney General." 

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