I feel compelled to respond to the allegations made by Mr Basil Williams, MP, attorney-at-law, published in a letter in the Stabroek News of July 2, 2014 (‘Government backdated Gazette to validate Rodney COI proceedings of June 23’). My first observation is that the letter, though purportedly written by Mr Williams, refers to him in the third person. Perhaps this is Mr Williams’ new and unique manner of expression.
That aside, the allegations contained in that letter are not only vexatious, outrageous and sinister but they are obviously calculated to undermine the integrity of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry. This is not surprising. It has been the agenda of Mr Williams and his party even before the commission was established. I can only surmise that they realized that they would not be able to deal with the evidence that was likely to emerge and in fact is emerging from the
commission. From the outset, they attacked the Terms of Reference. That failed. They next challenged the integrity of Commissioner Seenath Jairam, SC. That failed. Then they attacked the integrity of the Chairman Sir Richard Cheltenham, QC. That failed. They next attacked the procedure employed by the commission and the quality of evidence adduced. That also failed. These new allegations by Mr Williams are obviously their next line of attack. This will also fail.
The contention this time is that the extension of the life of the commission is improper and unlawful. In that contention, Mr Williams is hopelessly wrong. Two simple points will establish this.
(1) On June, 23, 2014, before the commencement of the third sitting of the commission, the President sent a letter to the Chairman extending the life of the commission until September 30, 2014. This notification was published in the Official Gazette in an extraordinary publication dated June 24, 2014 which stated that it was effective from June 23, 2014. The Commissions of Inquiry Act, Chapter 19:03 by virtue of Section 3 gives the President the power to alter a Commission of Inquiry established under that Act.
Section 3 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, Chapter 19:03 provides thus:
“In case any commissioner shall be or become unable or unwilling to act, or shall die, the President may appoint another commissioner in his place; and any commission issued under this Act may be altered as the President may deem fit by any subsequent commission issued by the President or may be revoked altogether by a notification to that effect published in the Gazette”
It was, therefore, well within the power of the President to include in the publication that the extension was to be effective from June, 23, 2014.
(2) Section 21 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Act, Chapter 2:01 gives the President the power to publish subsidiary legislation, such as, the notification for extension and for it to have retrospective operation. What this means, is that it can come into operation before the date of publication in the Official Gazette.
Section 21 (2) of the Interpretation and General Clauses Act, Chapter 2:01 states:
“Statutory Legislation other than those specified in subsection (1) need not be published unless expressly required by the Act conferring power to make them, and, whether published or not, such instruments shall come into operation at the time of their making or at such other time as may be specified therein.”
The evidence taken by the commission on June, 23, 2014, is therefore beyond any legal challenge. A simple reading of the relevant sections of the Commissions of Inquiry Act and the Interpretation and General Clauses Act would have saved Mr Williams from much embarrassment.
It is my considered view that the forum used by Mr Williams, that is, the letter column of the newspaper rather than making those very objections before the commission itself, leads me to the ineluctable conclusion that Mr Williams not only intends to mislead the public but also to disparage the integrity of the commission.
Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP
Minister of Legal Affairs