Tuesday 25 February, 2020

AG: Gov't seeks clarity in decision to appeal ruling on buggery law

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has defended the government's decision to appeal the High Court ruling which determined that this country's buggery laws are unconstitutional. 

High Court Justice Devindra Rampersad made the ruling last Thursday after a challenge was brought by gay and human rights activist Jason Jones.

Responding to questions during a media conference on Wednesday, Al-Rawi said appealing the matter is necessary to gain clarity on the way forward.

He made it clear that the decision to appeal is not reflective of the government's position on homosexuality.

“I am acting for all the people of Trinidad and Tobago," he said.

"The law is in a state of flux, it deserves to be settled in final form and therefore I take no view one way or the other on the issue."

Al-Rawi said appealing the matter is even more crucial as there are 26 other laws, apart from the Sexual Offences Act, which target homosexuality.

He said the decision made in this matter will set a precedent on how the other laws are to be treated with.

"I am simply intent on settling what the law actually is and what it may very well be as it applies to the 26 other laws that are on the books,” he stated.

“Trinidad and Tobago may not be aware but there are approximately 27 laws on the books of Trinidad and Tobago that treat with various versions of discrimination or prohibition against homosexuality. The buggery law was one of them. You have the Immigration Act, Hotel's legislation, Cinemas legislation...you have a host of laws which frown upon the concept of homosexuality in the written laws of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Al-Rawi said having the matter settled by the Privy Council, which is the highest court of appeal, will prevent confusion should another challenge be raised before a different judge and result in a different ruling.

"It is imperative when there is a heartfelt issue with strong advocacy on both sides of the equation, some for and some against, it is imperative that the law be settled,” he said.

Al-Rawi called on the public to be calm and allow the legal process to take place.

He said the government joins with President Paula-Mae Weekes in her call for respectful discourse on the matter.

“We respect the democratic rights, the freedom of association, the freedom of expression the private and family life principles that our constitution upholds and we certainly do believe that democracy should be allowed to be filtered through due process and that there ought to be a calm and reasonable approach towards the settling of this issue.”


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