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Pres Carmona seeks legal advice

Sunday, June 23, 2013

President Anthony Carmona is said to be seeking legal advice on the Ken Gordon issue. “It’s a most judicious thing to do,” one legal expert said yesterday. Gordon, chairman of the Integrity Commission, has recently come under fire, with calls for his resignation coming from various quarters after it was discovered that Gordon met with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley at his private residence at Glencoe, five days before he presented a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister for debate in the House of Representatives.



During his presentation, Rowley produced 31 e-mails related to the Section 34 fiasco, purporting to be exchanges between PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Minister of Local Government Suruj Rambachan and National Security adviser to the Prime Minister Gary Griffith and contained information on a conspiracy to silence a reporter.


Following a meeting between Persad-Bissessar and President Carmona last Friday, there was speculation that the President was next going to meet with Gordon and would possibly request his resignation. No such meeting took place. Gordon, however, did make a public statement denying any wrongdoing.


The Sunday Guardian learnt that President Carmona spent the day busy working in his office yesterday. When contacted for comment, the President’s executive adviser, Napiar Pillai, said he would have to speak to the President to determine if legal advice has been sought before commenting, but said he would not disturb the President at work.


One legal source told the Guardian that President Carmona seeking advice would be “a most judicious thing to do,” to prevent an outcome as that which occurred with Nizam Mohammed and former president George Maxwell Richards. “For a number of reasons, President Carmona would be wise to seek advice on this matter. In the event that someone should ask officially for Mr Gordon’s resignation, the President should be prepared. If he has in fact sought legal counsel it is his way of putting things in order.


“Also, the President has announced that he is in the process of preparing to make appointments to the commission and there was a story in the newspapers recently where it was reported that there are persons who have said they would not work with Ken Gordon. “The President holds sole discretion over the appointment of the chairman of the Integrity Commission, so he needs to do the research and cover all his bases to ensure he does not err in procedure,” the source said.


Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal said there was one sure area about which the President should seek counsel, and it comes, she said, out of an issue raised by Gordon’s recent statement and speaks to whether or not the chairman on his own has the powers of the entire commission. 


Refering to Gordon’s statement, she quoted: “‘the commission shall have the power...’ The question arises as to if that power can be exercised by the commissioner or if it requires the entire commission. It would be well advised for the President to seek advice on that matter in particular, for no one should advise himself,” a reference to the fact that President Carmona, as a former judge, is considerably well learned in the law.


Seetahal suggested that it may be that no wrong could have been done if at the time of the notorious meeting there was no commission in existence, thus rendering the commissioner powerless. 


“What are the powers of the commissioner when there is no quorum? Can the commissioner perform the functions of the commission? When persons in public  life file their applications, as is required by the Integrity in Public Life Act, we are told the files are put before the commission, the body. The President is now seeking to make appointments to the commission, if the commission is not in place, how can there be a head?” Seetahal questioned.



Nizam vs Max

In April 2011, Nizam Mohammed, chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, raised the issue of an ethnic imbalance in the Police Service and pledged, as chairman, to address the matter with the help of Parliament. Ten days after his contentious statements, President Max Richards removed him as commission chairman. Mohammed sought redress in the courts. Days before President Richards demitted office, Civil Court Judge Judith Jones declared Richards’ 2011 decision “null, void and of no effect.”


Jones upheld the argument that Mohammed was not given a fair opportunity to “meet and treat with the allegations made against him and the conclusions drawn from these allegations.” In her 27-page ruling, she said the circumstances under which Richards’ decision was reached, “when examined objectively, do not demonstrate fair play in action” and described the occurrence as “unfortunate.”


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