Wednesday 25 November, 2020

AG to seek international help for info on Cambridge Analytica

The Government will be seeking the assistance of legal agencies in other jurisdictions, namely the United States and the United Kingdom, to provide information on Cambridge Analytica’s (CA) role in Trinidad and Tobago’s 2010 general elections.

This will be sought under the Mutual Corporation and Assistance mechanisms in law and was revealed by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi during a media conference held at his Ministry’s Office in Port of Spain on Tuesday.

The AG’s disclosure comes on the heels of a Netflix documentary series called The Great Hack, which looked at how CA - a British political consulting firm which combined data mining, data brokerage and data analysis with strategic communication during the electoral process - utilised Facebook data without users’ knowledge or consent, in order to categorise them so that they could present those details to their clients on how to reach that audience.  

The Great Hack commenter in the documentary, said African children in Trinidad, referred to as “Blacks”, will not listen to their parents as it relates to voting but Indian children will. CA used this information to assist with its marketing campaign for the UNC.

Now, the AG says his office will attempt to retrieve information and uncover the truth about the UNC’s alleged involvement with the data-mining firm.

“So, by way of information update in summary, the Mutual Assistance and Cooperation in Criminal Matters is to be deployed via the Central Authority Office in the Attorney General and secondly, the recommendation to the Parliamentary Committee [Joint Select Committee] to treat with the preservation of privilege and disclosure of privileged material received by the House of Commons [the United Kingdom’s Lower House of Parliament] and the US Parliamentary Congress to be recommended by way of AG writing to the Parliamentary Committee.”

Meanwhile, the AG reiterated his sentiments last week that CA “whistleblower” Christopher Wylie will appear before Trinidad’s JSC on the data-mining issue.

The AG says the reference to ethnicity, data mining and data aggregation which occurred, is actionable in all likelihood in Trinidad and Tobago.

He says, “There is very likely evidence of criminal wrongdoing and certainly civil wrongdoing” based on the information presented by Christopher Wiley in his corporation with the National Crime Agency in the UK and with Trinidad and Tobago.

Once such criminal offence is intercepting communication which falls under the Interception of Communications Act. Al-Rawi quoted Wiley who he says disclosed that videos which were looked at on social media, were intercepted and recorded by CA.

Gov’t to appeal ruling on Legal Profession Act

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi says the Government has asked for an urgent hearing to urge Justice Vasheist Kokaram to stay his ruling that section 15 (1A) of the Legal Profession Act (LPA) is unconstitutional, until after the appeal is filed at the UK Privy Council, Trinidad and Tobago’s highest court.

He says Justice Kokaram heard the urgent matter on Monday and reserved ruling for Wednesday as the Government intends to appeal the judgement.

“We have done that because the issue of providing similar treatment to all CARICOM individuals to Trinidad and Tobago, that is in test right now. There are contingent rights, there are certain privileges under the free movement and skillset in CARICOM and therefore accepting this decision has multiple complications that must be factored.”

Section 15 (1A) of the Legal Professions Act gives citizens who meet the following criteria, an avenue to practice law as opposed to completing the two-year LEC programme: “has passed the Bar Finals or the Bar Vocational Course at an institution validated by the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales, has been called to the Bar of England and Wales and has completed pupillage of at least six months and is certified as such.”

The AG says countries like St Lucia, have laws that benefit their population adding that it would somehow be unfair if T&T were forced to change its laws to accompany CARICOM nationals while some other countries use the same model.

Last Thursday, Justice Kokoram delivered a 124-page decision, that the law was discriminatory in nature and placed an additional burden on a non-nationals to seek admission to the Hugh Wooding Law School, write an entrance examination, or wait additional years to be called to the bar in England and then seek to get their certificate of fitness before being admitted to the local Bar. Kokaram said, however, that it was the Parliament that was responsible for changing the law.

The law was challenged by Dianne Jhamilly Hadeed, a St Lucian who was born in Grenada and who had the required qualifications to be admitted to practise law in TT.

Hadeed was rep­re­sent­ed by Christophe Ro­driguez, Raisa Cae­sar, Sparkle Kirk and David Francis.

Meanwhile, Senior Counsel Fyard Ho­sein, Rachel Thurab, Roshan Ram­char­i­tar, Laura Per­sad and Kha­dine Matthews rep­re­sent­ed the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s Of­fice.

Senior Counsel Deb­o­rah Peake, Ravi Heffes-Doon, Tama­ra Toolsie and Ker­lene Al­fon­so rep­re­sent­ed the Law As­so­ci­a­tion while Senior Counsel Ian Ben­jamin, Pierre Rud­der, Michelle Ben­jamin and Ryan Grant rep­re­sent­ed the Reg­is­trar of the Supreme Court.

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