News day / That was how former president of the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC) Afra Raymond described the Appeal Court’s decision to uphold a decision rendered by Justice Frank Seepersad. In a release sent to Newsday via email, Raymond stated that the appellate court delivered its majority ruling upholding Justice Seepersad’s decision on July 14, 2014 to order the publication of the legal opinions on which the then Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development had been relying with respect to Invader’s Bay.

“The Appeal Court delivered its majority ruling upholding the decision of Justice Frank Seepersad on July 14, 2014 to order publication of the legal opinions on which the Ministry had been relying,” the release stated. In 2013, the JCC sought a judicial review of the then Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development’s refusal to publish legal opinions which the ministry said supported its Request for Proposals (RFP) process in the proposed development of Invaders’ Bay, it said.

The release stated further, “The JCC contended that the RFP process was being conducted in breach of the Central Tenders Board Act, but the Ministry claimed to have legal advice that its actions conformed to the CTB Act.

It was that advice which the Ministry refused to publish.” Invaders’ Bay is a 70-acre parcel of Stateowned reclaimed land south of the Movietowne/Pricesmart/Marriott complex near to the National Stadium in west POS. In August 2011, the Ministry of Planning and the Economy published a Request for Proposals (RFP) inviting offers to develop those lands by design, finance and construct proposals, Raymond said on his blog.

In a phone interview, Raymond told Newsday that this ruling was a win for journalists and all others in the information industry.

The ruling, Raymond also said, meant that the society now had to look more closely at, “at situations where in fact legal opinions are being offered as a reason as to do and not do something. To me the meaning of the ruling is that these legal rulings are opened to examination.

The situation was that it was published at the discretion of the state. This, effectively, ends that practice.” He added that it meant, in the future, information workers such as journalists could ask that the legal opinions of a politician be published in the greater public interest.

“What this means is that we can now ask in the future when a politician is saying I can’t show you this because of legal professional privilege that you can request to see it. You can cite this precedent, the public interest a mandatory public interest test could in fact outweigh legal professional privilege. It is a big advance for journalist,” Raymond said. Although Raymond is no longer the JCC president is calling for the legal opinions to be immediately published.


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