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EOC on Rampersad’s ‘Calcutta’ statements: No complaints, so no action

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) can only act on comments made by one of its commissioners, Dr Indira Rampersad, about the “Calcutta ship” matter when it receives a formal complaint, its chairman Prof John La Guerre said yesterday. He said to date no official complaint had been made to the commission.



He added: “The complaint must be properly addressed to the commission and couched in the form of a complaint and it must also list all the relevant grounds. Until then the commission is unable to carry out an investigation.” Rampersad, speaking on a television panel discussion on Monday, said she believed the  “Calcutta ship” statements made during Tobago’s election campaign were a well-planned PNM strategy which played on the fears of Tobagonians.


She said: “Whether that statement was actually said in error, I would say no. I would say that it was a carefully thought-out strategy because it evoked a response and I think that also was planned. “If it evoked a response it would create and play on the minds of the Tobagonian and I think we see the plans by the PNM to secure victory and we can say it certainly worked.” La Guerre said he could not comment on whether Rampersad should step down as a commissioner.


Vice chairman of the Equality Council of T&T, Barrington “Skippy” Thomas, yesterday wrote to the President calling on him to remove her from the commission immediately. The council described Rampersad’s statements as premature and said they constituted “a breach of her duties and responsibilities and the impartiality required” for serving on the commission.


Thomas said Rampersad could be removed from the commission under Section 28 (2) (c) of the Equal Opportunities Act 2000. Also calling on Rampersad to step down was political scientist Winford James. Saying Rampersad was left with no other choice, James said as a professional and an academic, Rampersad should have been more careful in her comments, especially as she was wearing the hat of a commissioner.


He added: “Her case is clear. She is in a place where she is expected to be unbiased at all times. Once she expresses herself as a commissioner, she cannot make those kinds of statements. She cannot forget her position. I don’t think she has a choice but to step down.” Rampersad could not be reached up to late yesterday as calls to her cellphone went unanswered.



“Calcutta ship” comment under probe

On complaints about the “Calcutta ship” comments, La Guerre assured the commission was investigating them. He said there were certain procedures it must follow which could not be rushed. “I gather a complaint has come through and it will go through the normal processes of adjudication,” he said. On when the investigation was expected to be completed, La Guerre said the commission was a judicial institution and must follow the normal processes of getting evidence and statements.


During an election rally in Tobago, former deputy chief secretary of the THA Hilton Sandy urged the crowd to vote PNM because “there is a ship at Calcutta waiting to sail to Tobago. They are waiting to get the results of this election. If you bring the wrong results, the Calcutta ship is coming down for you. “You must stop that ship. We must not allow that ship to sail and if you don’t want that ship to sail what you have to do is vote the PNM,” he added.



The Equal Opportunity Act says

Section 28 (2) (c) The appointment of a commissioner shall be terminated by the President after consultation  with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition if he is incapable, for whatever reason, to perform his duties and functions under this act.


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