War of the affidavits

The allegations, made in a lawsuit filed in the Trinidad and Tobago High Court, were brought to challenge the proceedings and possibly delay the production of a final report of the Commission of Inquiry. However, Uff, in an affidavit filed in November, in addition to describing them as “improper” has advanced that lawyers for Calder Hart, Executive Chairman of Udecott, had sought to get the Commission to keep secret, the evidence of Carl Khan, former husband of Hart’s wife, Sherrine.

Khan had filed three sworn statutory declarations in which he had alleged, inter alia, that Mrs Hart’s brother and brother-in-law, Alan Lee Hup Ming and David Ng Chin Poh, respectively, were directors of Sunway a company to which Udecott had awarded $668 million in contracts.

On Monday, December 7, however, at the resumption of the Inquiry Uff revealed that Hart’s attorneys, including Frank Solomon SC and Devesh Maharaj, had indicated they would not cross-examine Khan on the basis of the declarations and had ruled that they would stand uncontested as part of the evidence of the Inquiry.

It should be noted that Uff’s affidavit had been filed in the High Court on November 20, in response to allegations stemming from an affidavit submitted earlier this year by Udecott’s Chief Operating Officer, Neelanda Rampaul. Interestingly, Rampaul’s affidavit was somewhat in advance of Uff’s ruling. Nonetheless, Prof Uff’s December 7 pronouncement had been made following on lawyers for Hart opting not to challenge Khan’s sworn statutory declarations. Was the Chairman of the Inquiry revealing in his affidavit that lawyers for Hart had tried to get the Commissioners to keep Carl Khan’s evidence secret based on their decision conveyed to Uff that they would not be cross-examining Khan? Or was it independent of that? It should be pointed out though that lawyers act not on their own but on the basis of their being briefed by clients.

We wish to note, however, that Udecott has alleged that Uff had given an undertaking that Khan’s declarations would not be posted on the Commission’s website, which they have been and describes their being online as “oppressive and unfairly biased against Udecott and Hart”. Uff, though, has described in his affidavit that on May 19 of this year he had forwarded the documents to Hart’s lawyers for response. In turn, from as early as that date it had given no indication of any intention not to cross-examine Khan.

Uff reportedly stated in his affidavit that on May 20 he held further in camera meetings with them at which they urged him not to let Carl Khan’s documents be made public. In addition, he has insisted that he gave no undertaking that Khan’s statutory declarations would not be posted on the Commission’s website at http://www.constructionenquiry.gov.tt/.

Even though the Inquiry’s formal sittings ended somewhat earlier than expected following on the decision not to cross-examine Khan and the Chairman’s ruling that Khan’s evidence “will now stand uncontested as part of the evidence in the Inquiry”, the literal war of affidavits has once more excited the public’s continuing interest.

Rampaul’s reported charge, contained in an affidavit, that Uff was guilty of an “act of deliberate prevarication...to embarrass and scandalise Udecott and its Executive Chairman” has drawn Uff’s response that the claim was “unfounded, tantamount to an accusation of actual bias...I would invite her to withdraw it.”

Phase Four of the Inquiry may have ended, but another phase of the drama appears to have only just begun.


"War of the affidavits"

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