Legal mind as president will help Integrity Commission
THE EDITOR: Under president Noor Hassanali's two terms in office and president ANR Robinson's, the Integrity Commission saw the tenure in office of former judge George Collymore and retired justice of appeal Gerard des Iles as chairmen, totalling 15 years (1988-2003) and representing stability.
• President George Maxwell Richards assumes office in 2003 and breaks with tradition by appointing insurance executive Gordon Deane as chairman of the Integrity Commission.
• At this time, the Integrity Commission referred the Landate matter involving Dr Keith Rowley to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Chairman Deane recused himself in this matter.
• A High Court lawsuit revealed that commissioners of the Integrity Commission wrote to then prime minister Patrick Manning, asking how it should proceed in the matter.
• Deane resigns as chairman of the Integrity Commission, and Richards continues in his new tradition and appoints another non-legal officer to chair the commission in the form of businessman and former director at Clico John Martin.
• Under John Martin as chairman, the High Court ruling in the Landate matter found the commission was guilty of "tort of misfeasance" when it prematurely referred the Landate matter to the DPP, and as a result, all commissioners, including the learned and experienced judicial officer Justice Monica Barnes, resigned.
• There is a lull and no commission is appointed between January 2009 and May 2009 when Richards appointed another non-legal officer to chair the commission in the form of Roman Catholic cleric Fr Henry Charles. His appointment lasted one week after it was discovered he could not serve on the commission, according to canon law. In addition, Charles admitted to plagiarism in one of his columns. How is that possible when Charles has a degree in ethics from the famous Yale university?
• In 2010, the President continued the trend of appointing non-legal officers and, as such, appointed University of the West Indies (UWI) economist Dr Eric St Cyr.
• St Cyr resigns in October 2011 amid controversy over his propensity to comment on matters before the commission.
• In November 2011, Richards appoints another non-legal officer to chair the commission by appointing business mogul Ken Gordon.
From 2003-2011, the Integrity Commission has had a total of five chairmen, all demitting office due to imbroglio. The current chairman, in under 90 days, has caused the commission to be once again engulfed in a spate of unfavourable circumstances.
What we really need to take a look at is the underpinning problem in this situation. We may need to ask ourselves why the Integrity Commission has never undergone such problems and fiascoes under presidents Hassanali and Robinson as evidenced by only two chairpersons in 15 years.
Going deeper, the current administration may need to contemplate, as the incumbent President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago's term of office expires in 11 months, finding a respectable, brilliant legal luminary to be Head of State. Former presidents Sir Ellis Clarke, Hassanali and Robinson were all distinguished legal officers who served the country well.
Like it or not but: "Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." —John Adams, "Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials", December 1770, US diplomat and politician (1735-1826)