Power to probe
PORT OF SPAIN – Integrity Commission chairman Ken Gordon has the power to investigate the e-mail scandal.
This was made clear after the commission sought the advice of a senior counsel on how the matter could be dealt with. The People’s National Movement, which had been calling on the commission to investigate the complaint from the very start, immediately welcomed the move yesterday.
The e-mails were made public by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley during his contribution in Parliament on May 20. The e-mails addressed the Section 34 fiasco, offering the director of public prosecutions a judgeship and the intimidation of a journalist who broke the story.
The e-mails were purported to be from addresses belonging to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Local Government and Works and Transport Minister Suruj Rambachan and national security adviser to the PM, Gary Griffith. A two-page statement issued by the commission yesterday said the commission would probe matters regarding breaches of the Integrity in Public Life Act, even in cases where a police investigation is also ongoing.
But until a board is appointed by President Anthony Carmona, the commission said, its hands were tied, as it could make no decisions on the matter.
“It is entirely a matter for the commission to determine whether, notwithstanding the police investigation, it wishes to exercise its own jurisdiction under the act to carry out its own investigations utilising its powers under the act to determine whether the purported e-mails disclose dishonest or corrupt conduct, conduct conducive to corruption or breaches of the act on the part of persons in public life or persons who fall under the purview of the commission,” the commission said.
It added it must also be noted that under Section 5(2) (b) of the act, the commission could at any time make use of the services of the police if it considered it appropriate to do so. The commission also noted that by Section 34 (7), if after an investigation has been done, the commission is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, it is required to make a report to the director of public prosecutions.
The DPP in turn can take appropriate action and by Section 31(3) can report any breach of the code of conduct of an MP. The commission said legal advice was sought on the basis of public statements concerning the scandal and matters raised relating to copies of e-mails forwarded for authentication to Gordon by then president George Maxwell Richards.
The statement said: “The senior counsel has advised that the commission indeed has the jurisdiction to consider and enquire matters where there have been breaches of the IPLA and where an offence has been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“It is clear from the above provisions and in particular Section 138(d) of the Constitution and Section 5(e) and (f) and Section 33(a) of the act read together with Section 24(1) and (2), Section 27(1) and Section 29(1) of the act that the commission is vested with jurisdiction to investigate the matters raised in the purported e-mails to determine whether the conduct of any person who falls under the purview of the commission is dishonest, corrupt or conducive to corruption.” (Guardian)