Opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley believes that by accepting hospitality from the Gopauls, the Prime Minister received a “gift” which, he says, is not permitted by the Integrity Act. He has reportedly called on the Integrity Commission to investigate. In response the Prime Minister has referred the matter to the Attorney General for advice. So far so good. Except that Dr St Cyr rushed to judgment even before the matter reached the Commission.
This is the second occasion that St Cyr, since being appointed to the Integrity Commission has come across as being less than tactful. The first was when Opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley, had asked the Commission to determine whether Minister of Works, Jack Warner, could serve simultaneously as a Cabinet Minister and Vice-President of FIFA. On that occasion too, Dr St Cyr spoke out of turn.
We fail to see how Dr St Cyr could preside over any hearing of the Integrity Commission into the issue of the Prime Minister’s stay at the Gopauls when he has already tacitly reached a conclusion. Indeed, Dr St Cyr should have refrained from publicly commenting on the matter until he had received an official report, studied it, heard both sides at any Inquiry into the official report and a decision handed down by the Commission.
What the Integrity Commission chairman apparently has not appreciated is that persons may read into his reported statement that not only is it his official view of the matter, but that should the Commission’s decision be against the PM’s acceptance of hospitality by the Gopauls, that it was somehow influenced by St Cyr’s. Admittedly, this would be unfair to the members of the Commission, who are widely accepted as independent and balanced thinkers. Nonetheless, perception does not always take the same course as fact.
There have been calls from different quarters for Dr St Cyr to either resign from the Integrity Commission or recuse himself from any hearing into the matter. The least he can do with respect to this issue is recuse himself. In addition, he should resist from commenting in future on any matter which is likely to be placed before the Integrity Commission or is clearly a contentious issue. While “No Comment” may not be helpful to a reporter or indeed a reader, listener or viewer nevertheless it cannot be misconstrued.
Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. Dr Rowley knows this well as he once experienced unfair treatment at the hands of the Integrity Commission when judgment was given before he was even heard.
The Chairman of the Integrity Commission, as is any other Member of the Commission, someone with the authority to adjudicate on disputes taken before the Commission for it to decide upon. Such a person is expected to be impartial. While he/she may have a personal view of issues, a Commissioner is not expected to voice them. Regrettably, St Cyr has not only made one gaffe as Integrity Commission Chairman, but two, as we noted earlier.
The first time around was with respect to a senior Cabinet Minister. And as if that was not embarrassing enough on this occasion the person at the receiving end of the comment is the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the Head of Government. And while we await the advice Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has asked of the Attorney General, we believe that Dr St Cyr’s credibility has been strained and he should resign. At the very least he must recuse himself from any inquiry into the Prime Minister’s stay at the Gopaul family home. If he does indeed remain as Chairman he must refrain from future gaffes.