UPSET over the handling of the indemnity deal between former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi and convicted attorney Vincent Nelson, two social activist groups took their complaints to the Director of Public Prosecutions on Tuesday.
The groups, the Push Back Movement represented by Michael Kerr and Andy Williams, and Concern (sic) Citizens, represented by Lennox Smith, met with DPP Roger Gaspard for about 30 minutes at Gaspard’s office on Richmond Street, Port of Spain.
Speaking with the media after the meeting, Kerr said Gaspard said he did not want to get into any public confrontation, and was “very humbled” by the support shown by those who came out.
Kerr said the indemnity deal, which has led to Nelson's suing the state for nearly $100 million, was the focus of the gathering.
“This (the DPP’s office) is the last block in the wall of democracy. We understand that we, the people, have to be the cornerstone, if it is that we have to defend our democracy and our civil liberties,” Kerr said.
Asked if the protest was motivated politically, Smith, a former temporary senator with the UNC, said: “It is not at all! It is in defence of the democracy of Trinidad and Tobago. The democracy, the rule of law, the separation of power and the fact that people cannot use their office to perpetrate illegal acts in a public office and feel that they can get away with it unscathed – that is the purpose.”
Nelson was the main witness against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan and opposition senator Gerald Ramdeen, in an alleged state-briefs-for-cash scam.
Gaspard discontinued that matter after Nelson said he would no longer testify because the government reneged on promises he claimed were part of a deal he signed with Al-Rawi. He is now suing for $96 million for this supposed breach.
The men delivered letters to the DPP, with the Push Back Movement calling on him to review the indemnity deal and if necessary take action and involve the Police Commissioner.
Smith’s organisation wants the DPP to initiate a criminal probe into the deal, to express its concern about attempts by politicians to influence the DPP’s office and to show its support for Gaspard.
Smith’s letter read: “We beseech and call upon you and your office to cause criminal investigation to be initiated to ascertain and proffer charges where probative evidence allows into the conduct of the Prime Minister, Al-Rawi, the Cabinet and all persons that the investigations may reveal.”
Smith said Gaspard did not give a response time for any updates, but welcomed another meeting for the groups to elaborate on their concerns.
Kerr said in ten days, “based on what the DPP has to say,” there will be a national protest, which is being planned.
He added: “We are out here because after almost eight years, there's nothing that we can reflect on to show any growth in this country. Nothing in the energy sector, healthcare and infrastructure.
"So we are out here to ensure that the people, the main stakeholders of this country, have a voice. We will be coming out in our numbers in ten days' time. Please be prepared.”
Among those who came out were 70-year-old Vijay Sharma from Sangre Grande, who said he came out for justice. Sharma said because of some of the ills in the country, he came to Port of Spain to ask Gaspard to give him justice.
Gregory Garcia, from San Juan, said he heard about the gathering on radio and came. He believes there is enough evidence of witness-tampering in the Nelson matter to warrant not just an investigation but charges.
Petrina Ramoutar, 21, said she came to fight back against the government “because what the government doing is unfair to us.”
She added that she came out because there is a shortage of young people standing up for justice and had been in the city from as early as 9 am, albeit at the wrong place at first. Her father Ravi said Google Maps sent them to Park Street, to the site of a building earmarked for the DPP but never occupied.
The family came from Cunupia.
Asked if they don’t achieve their objective, what will be their next step, the father and daughter said in unison they will come out another day.
“We will keep fighting until we get what we want,” Petrina said.