Trinidad-Tobago President reaffirms leave for Chief Justice

Keith Rowley

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says he is studying a response by President Anthony Carmona “reaffirming his decision” to grant sabbatical leave to the embattled Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

Archie was due to leave here for the United States last weekend, but deferred his departure after then acting head of State, Christine Kangaloo, said last Friday she had been able to convince him not to leave the island after the Government raised questions about the matter.

Kangaloo, in a statement, said that she had been “in communication with the honourable chief justice and invited the honourable chief justice to consider deferring a departure from the jurisdiction prior to the return of His Excellency Anthony Carmona to the country on Sunday. The Honourable Chief Justice has agreed to defer such departure”.

But in a brief statement yesterday, the Office of the Prime Minister said that in response to the March 7 letter requesting “an explanation of the authority by which the president has purportedly granted sabbatical leave to the chief justice…the president has responded reaffirming his decision”.

The statement said that Rowley will be “examining the situation and will report to the country in short order”.

Last week, the minister in the Ministry of the Prime Minister, Stuart Young, told reporters that Dr Rowley had written to the Office of the President seeking clarification on the matter “since that (sabbatical) term doesn’t exist for judicial officers in the Salaries Review Commission’s (SRC) 98th report”.

Young said that the matter had been raised during the Cabinet meeting last Thursday, but noted that Prime Minister Rowley had only become involved in the issue when he received communication from President Carmona, dated March 2, which sought — under the consultative process — appointment of an acting chief justice.

The letter, which he said was received on March 6, asked whether the prime minister had any objection to appointing Justice of Appeal Allan Mendonca to act as chief justice while Archie went on sabbatical.

Young said Rowley subsequently wrote the president on Wednesday querying the basis for Archie’s sabbatical. He said Carmona’s letter suggested the SRC’s 98th report had a term for judicial officers to go on sabbatical leave. But he said the SRC makes recommendations which are laid in Parliament and can be rejected, modified or amended by Cabinet.

He said Rowley had immediately consulted the SRC’s 98th report, “but the report didn’t have it (sabbatical) as a recommendation for judicial officers”, even as he acknowledged that the SRC had “something to the effect” and had been suggested to the commission, which thought it was a good idea in principle that sabbatical be added to judicial officers’ terms.

“It wasn’t put forward by the SRC as a recommendation to be laid in Parliament and Cabinet deliberation,” Young said.

“So the prime minister asked President Carmona where did the issue of sabbatical arise and why was he being called about the consultative process to appoint an acting CJ, as there’s no basis upon which to have the sabbatical leave. There’s no such term.”