Kamla: Max did not consult me

The Constitution says commission members are appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

Persad-Bissessar said her office in Port-of-Spain received a letter last Thursday from the Office of the President stating Jookhoo was the final commissioner. Her office forwarded the letter to her personally last Friday morning.

Persad-Bissessar noted the lack of time for her to be consulted, even as the appointments were announced, saying the consultation was ex post facto (“after the fact”).

She said, “It appears to be a fait accompli.”

The President’s letter, signed by his secretary, was addressed to Persad-Bissessar’s executive assistant. It said, “...I am directed by His Excellency to inform you that the fifth person to be appointed to the Integrity Commission is Mr Seunarine Jokhoo...Will you please bring this to the attention of the Leader of the Opposition?”

Persad-Bissessar told Newsday she had not been consulted on the other four commissioners whose names were sent to the office while Basdeo Panday was still Leader of the Opposition.

Otherwise, she welcomed the new Commission.

Panday refused to tell Newsday which names the President had sent him for consultation.

Also last Thursday, a letter stating President George Maxwell Richards had chosen all commissioners was sent from the Chief State Solicitor to Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh. Boodoosingh is adjudicating the lawsuit filed in October 2009 by activist Devant Maharaj against the Attorney General to try to force the appointment of an Integrity Commission.

Maharaj, president of the Indo Trinbago Equality Council, lamented that after a year of no commission one was appointed only after his lawsuit began. This delay was a breach of the Constitution, he said, even as serious concerns were being raised.

“This unreasonable delay has provided ample opportunity for those persons who are perhaps guilty of wrongdoing to destroy evidence and cover their tracks. The President’s delay is unforgivable,” he said.

Did he have concerns about any specific member?

“I have a problem with all the appointments, based on the way they were done. It cannot be done in secret and in a vague and arbitrary way, such as just choosing who is the President’s friend. It should have gone before a parliamentary oversight committee, and under the public’s glare,” he said, referring to US Senate hearings as a model.

Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley, who won a lawsuit against the past board which the court found had failed to give him a chance to respond to allegations in the Landate affair, said he did not have any reaction to the appointment of a new commission. “It is part of the Constitution. It is a constitutional requirement and it should be in place,” Rowley said.

Meanwhile checks at the Office of the Integrity Commission yesterday revealed none of the five new members were listed as “persons in public life”, as far back as filing was required, generally in 2003 but in a very few cases 2002. The collapse of the former commission showed that one member Jeffrey Mac Farlane was an active person in public life as executive director of the National Insurance Board.


"Kamla: Max did not consult me"

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