Richards did not respond to a list of questions faxed to him at President’s House yesterday by Newsday. The questions asked him to account for his role in the Integrity Commission fiasco which saw all members of the commission resign after he appointed them on May 1.
In a press release issued yesterday, Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday warned that, “continued silence by His Excellency...regarding questions being asked by the public in the Integrity Commission ‘fiasco’ will further undermine public confidence ...and will bring him and his office into disrepute.”
Congress of the People (COP) deputy political leader Prakash Ramadhar was denied a meeting with Richards at President’s House, St Ann’s yesterday but he delivered a letter to the President’s Office demanding an explanation for the Integrity Commission fiasco.
Ramadhar delivered the letter at 1.30 pm yesterday stating Richards owed the country a detailed explanation on the matter.
The letter said questions surrounding the appointments of retired Justice Zainool Hosein, Jeffrey Mc Farlane and Father Henry Charles should be addressed immediately as any further delay would only serve to erode public confidence in the Office of the President.
Controversy aside, Richards pressed ahead with his official duties. Senate Vice President George Hadeed read out a notice from Richards at the start of yesterday’s sitting of the Senate.
“Whereas Senator Wade Mark is incapable of performing his duties as a senator by reason of his absence from Trinidad and Tobago, now, therefore, I, George Maxwell Richards, President...acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, in exercise of the powers vested in me by Section 44 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, do hereby appoint you Mr Lennox Smith to be temporarily a member of the Senate with effect from May 26, 2009 and continuing during the absence from Trinidad and Tobago of the said Senator Wade Mark,” the notice read.
Richards also appointed Noel Gail to act as a temporary senator in place of Senator Danny Montano, who is also Senate President, and Foster Cummings to replace Senator Laurel Lezama.
Smith is now the public relations officer of the National Alliance for Reconstruction. He sat next to Dr Sharon Gopaul-McNicol who was, incidentally, appointed as a senator in place of former NAR Senator Carson Charles. Smith was charged with fraud in October 2007 as well as six charges of breaching court orders in relation to a domestic squabble which was eventually settled. However, his fraud matter is still ongoing. “That matter is still going on, it’s still in Couva. I think it comes up on the June 9,” Smith told Newsday yesterday.
Under Section 40 of the Constitution there are to be six senators appointed by the President on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. There is no requirement that such a senator actually has to be a member of the Opposition party. The NAR had entered into an alliance with the UNC.
“It was an election arrangement. My temporary appointment is largely as a result of a promise that was made to have members of the alliance involved in the Senate at least,” Smith said.
Yesterday afternoon Smith went on to make his maiden contribution during debate on a private motion in the Senate over moves by Government to separate the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). Smith said he supported the motion and criticised Government for moving to separate the waste-water functions of the authority.