Sunday, June 2, 2013

Question for Max Richards - guest commentary by Dr Hamid Ghany

In winding up the debate on his motion of no confidence before the Prime Minister exercised her right to reply under Standing Order 34(2) on a motion “critical” of the Government, Dr Keith Rowley told the House of Representatives that he had an audience with former president Richards on January 8. At that meeting he handed over the e-mails.

In an interview with Gail Alexander of the T&T Guardian that was published on May 23, Richards said: “I passed them on to the Integrity Commission, as those e-mails, on the face of it, needed authentication, so the most appropriate body to handle that independently would have been the Integrity Commission.”

According to a Guardian report on May 24, the Integrity Commission confirmed that it received the e-mails, together with a March 4 letter from former president Richards, on March 6. 

According to the Guardian story, Richards’ letter stated, inter alia, the following:
“I am forwarding to you the attached documents which were passed to me in order for your commission to determine whether they disclose matters which should be investigated under the provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act.”
That is at variance with what Richards told Gail Alexander in her report on May 23. The letter to the commission from him dated March 4 speaks about determining whether the documents he sent “disclose matters which should be investigated” as opposed to what he told Alexander about a determination whether the documents themselves “needed authentication.”

Apart from that, another question to be asked of Richards is why did he take approximately two months to send the e-mails to the Integrity Commission? What was he doing with those documents for two months, given all that they purported to disclose and his own statement that “on the face of it” the very documents themselves “needed authentication”? I have maintained that the former president has a lot to answer for his own role in the early proclamation of Section 34.

Many others have misdiagnosed the matter as one where “the Cabinet proclaimed” Section 34 early, which is a constitutional impossibility. The PNM and the former Round Table have maintained a studious distance from the former president’s role in the exercise of his own constitutional powers as president to proclaim Section 34 early for whatever reason. Now the former president finds himself tangled in the controversy surrounding the e-mails presented to Parliament by Dr Rowley.

The Integrity Commission provided the public with a lame excuse about “no formal action can be properly taken” when they knew very well that the term of office of the commissioners would not come to an end until March 14, some eight days later.

The commission could have considered this on an emergency basis to determine whether referral to the police was required. Indeed, the chairman must tell the public if it was ever tabled before the commission by him and deferred or that he never put it before the commission itself before the other members demitted office. What was his procedural action?

We now know that the former president had proposed names for the new Integrity Commission because the Leader of the Opposition confirmed at the PNM meeting in San Juan on Thursday May 23 that he had been consulted about those names before the term of office of the commission ended. 

We also know from before, that the former president had consulted the Prime Minister about those names and that her response was to leave the appointment of a new commission to the incoming President.

According to Dr Rowley in his winding-up address to the House on May 22, the former president, “fearing controversy,” did not appoint an Integrity Commission. I am on record as saying that it was perfectly possible that president Richards could have appointed an Integrity Commission before he left office even though those appointments would have taken effect on the eve of his departure.

Based on what Dr Rowley is saying, the former president feared “controversy” and that is why he did not make the appointments that he had in mind.

Despite this, Rowley blames the Prime Minister for the non-appointment of an Integrity Commission. The real blame lies with the former president, who knows very well that he did not have to comply with the wishes of the Prime Minister and that he could have gone ahead and made his appointments on the eve of his departure in defiance of the Prime Minister, just like the late president Ellis Clarke did in March 1987.

The two-month delay by former president Richards in sending the e-mails to the Integrity Commission caused the commission to issue an excuse about not being able to attend to the matter. The questions for the former president are:

(i) Why did he wait two months to send these e-mails to the Integrity Commission?
(ii) Why did he back down from going ahead with his own appointees for the Integrity Commission after he had already consulted both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition?

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai