Armour still has questions to answer

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Dinesh Rambally
Courtesy TT Parliament –

For Chaguanas West MP, Dinesh Rambally, lawyers led by Kiel Taklalsingh that supported a motion of no-confidence against Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, (AG) at the Law Association of TT (LATT) on Friday, should be commended.

Rambally also called for LATT to release the official transcript of the special general meeting held by the association on July 15. The meeting was held at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain and members attended and voted both in-person and virtually.

The association’s members were asked to vote on two motions: the no-confidence motion and whether a call should be made for Armour to resign. The motions were filed against Armour over his role in an ongoing United States civil asset recovery case related to fraud allegations in the construction of the Piarco International Airport. Taklalsingh and company argued that AG, as the titular head of the bar, had brought the legal profession into disrepute with his conduct in the matter.

Out of a total of 551 financial members that participated, 317 voted against the no-confidence motion while 234 in support it.

A total of 241 voted for and 310 voted against the call for Armour to resign.

At the UNC’s weekly press briefing on Sunday, Rambally said some members who spoke in Armour’s defence were chairmen of certain state-controlled or owned entities.

He said Armour admitted in the meeting that he misstated the full extent of his representation of previous client and former minister Brain Kuei Tung and apologised to his colleagues in the legal profession. Rambally said there was a recognition by Armour that he had done wrong.

“I am eagerly awaiting the official transcript/record of the SGM from the council of the Law Association. It is important that the public sees the statement of the AG containing the apology he made to members of the legal profession. Additionally, contributions made by the various speakers should be digested, discussed and commented upon by members of the public.”

He added, based on the statements of some senior members of the bar, the AG was able to mount a successful defence using considerations such as age and lapse of memory, testimonials from colleagues that “he was a good boy,” and there were bigger problems to deal with in comparison with the infraction under review.

Rambally said the attorneys who piloted the motions against Armour used the only tool that was available to them to hold the titular head of the profession to account.

“It is clear, as Attorney General, you cannot be hauled before the disciplinary committee, it is clear he cannot be moved in other circumstances, there is just no device under the Legal Profession Act to do that and the reason for that is when you put that person there, they are representing the titular head.”

He said Armour’s role demands much more of him.

Rambally said some junior lawyers were of the view that they were not seeing those standards set by him and it did not paint a good picture for the practice of the profession.

Even though the lawyers’ motions did not pass, Rambally believes they succeeded because “they got the AG to come down into the trenches” and secured an apology from him.

Rambally also questioned how the names of the 40 members, who signed the motion of no-confidence, were released to the public. He added this resulted in people attacking them and accusing them of having political motives.

Rambally said a social commentator spoke about their race and he never thought, in 2022, that would be the kinds of discussions that the society would be having.

He said many commentators, however, said the motion was not motivated by any malicious or any political motive.

“My personal impression of what took place is a David and Goliath situation. You had these junior lawyers come down there and they were very erudite, they were very articulate, they were even emotive in how they presented their arguments,” Rambally said.

He added the junior lawyers were very respectful of everyone as fellow members of the bar.

“I was present and I did not participate in it because I did not want to give any room for a perception that it was motivated by politics. So I stayed out.”

While, he said, the legal profession in its collective wisdom might be satisfied with the outcome, the UNC and the public demanded higher standards of TT’s high office holders.

He added that too many questions remained unanswered. Rambally added that the matter will not become “a seven-day wonder.”

He said he was not saying this to accuse anyone of anything but when the transcript became available, people might question those who spoke in defence of Armour.

Upon the failure of the motions, Armour issued a media release on Friday saying he was humbled by the outcome of the meeting, he was grateful for the vote of confidence by the majority and acknowledged and respected the concerns of the minority.

“I wish to thank my colleagues in the legal fraternity for taking the time to participate in the process. In addition, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the Law Association for the manner in which it managed this entire matter.”

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