Lawsuit over delays in calling JSC on Energy Affairs: Speaker, Imbert to serve as defendants

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - 17:30

House Speak­er Brdigid An­nisette-George and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert have agreed to serve as de­fen­dants in for­mer Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress (UNC) sen­a­tor Wayne Sturge’s law­suit over de­lays in call­ing a meet­ing of Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee (JSC) on En­er­gy Af­fairs. 


Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing An­nisette-George and the Diego Mar­tin North/East MP made the ap­pli­ca­tions for them to serve as de­fen­dants as the case came up for hear­ing be­fore Jus­tice Ron­nie Boodoos­ingh at the Hall of Jus­tice, in Port-of-Spain, yes­ter­day.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Im­bert’s lawyer Mar­tin Daly, SC, sug­gest­ed that the case should be split with Boodoos­ingh first de­cid­ing whether he had ju­ris­dic­tion to hear it be­fore re­solv­ing the le­gal is­sues raised with­in. 

Daly ex­plained that the case dealt with the con­sti­tu­tion­al prin­ci­ple of the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers and would help de­ter­mine the abil­i­ty of per­sons to make le­gal chal­lenges against Par­lia­men­tary process­es in the fu­ture. 

While Sturge’s lawyer Ger­ald Ramdeen agreed with Daly’s sug­ges­tion, Se­nior Coun­sel Deb­o­rah Peake, who is rep­re­sent­ing Par­lia­ment, said all the is­sues in the case should be heard and de­ter­mined to­geth­er. 

In his sub­mis­sions, Se­nior Coun­sel Fyard Ho­sein, SC, who is lead­ing the le­gal team for the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al, said he did not have a pref­er­ence on how the case should pro­ceed. How­ev­er, he not­ed that his client will not present ev­i­dence in the case but will make le­gal sub­mis­sions.  

“We have to be care­ful that the court does not set the agen­da of Par­lia­ment and Par­lia­ment does not set cas­es,” Ho­sein said. 

Boodoos­ingh up­held Daly’s sug­ges­tion as he stat­ed that it would save on time and le­gal costs as if he even­tu­al­ly rules that he does not have ju­ris­dic­tion to hear the case, he will not have to con­sid­er the sub­stan­tive le­gal dis­pute. 

Boodoos­ingh gave the par­ties dead­line for fil­ing ev­i­dence and sub­mis­sions on the pre­lim­i­nary le­gal is­sue and re­served March 5, next year, to hear oral sub­mis­sions. 

In the sub­stan­tive law­suit, filed late last month, Sturge is al­leg­ing that Im­bert’s han­dling of the sit­u­a­tion breached the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, which pre­cludes the Ex­ec­u­tive, Leg­is­la­ture and the Ju­di­cia­ry from in­ter­fer­ing in each oth­er’s work. 

He al­so sug­gest­ed that Im­bert’s de­ci­sion was based on a de­sire to in­su­late his Gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of Petrotrin from crit­i­cism. 

Sturge is seek­ing de­c­la­ra­tions that Im­bert, as chair­man of the JSC, act­ed un­law­ful­ly, il­le­gal­ly and un­con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly. 

Sturge ini­tial­ly sought an in­junc­tion to tem­porar­i­ly block the sale of Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre re­fin­ery as he claimed that the deal would have been scru­ti­nised by MPs at the JSC meet­ing. 

How­ev­er, the in­junc­tion ap­pli­ca­tion was with­drawn on the date of hear­ing, as Im­bert an­nounced the date of the first meet­ing, which was held the fol­low­ing week. 

Reporter: Derek Achong