Integrity Commission a waste

By Raffique Shah
June 06, 2016

Raffique ShahWhen constitutionally-independent institutions in the country seem to be collapsing, when holders of the highest offices seem confused about their roles and perplexed about their powers, and when the law publicly proves to be the proverbial ass, then, Trinidad & Tobago, we have a problem…a very serious problem.

Many people may have missed it, but last week the Integrity Commission published the names of more than 1,000 public officials who failed to file their declarations of interest forms, as they are required to under the Integrity in Public Life Act, over the period 2003 to 2014.

Among them is one former prime minister, approximately 25 percent of parliamentarians from all parties, hundreds of regional corporation councillors (among them prominent mayors), commissioners who served on statutory commissions, and a phalanx of State boards’ directors.

There were repeat offenders who seem to have never complied but who nevertheless continue to hold high offices to this day.

The Act was proclaimed in 2000, under the Basdeo Panday administration, and the Commission established shortly thereafter. Broadly stated, their provisions and powers were intended to eliminate corruption by having all senior officials who have some control or influence over public funds declare their incomes, assets, etc, and those of their immediate families, every year.

I imagine the reasoning was that if, one year after holding some high office, and in subsequent years, an official’s assets increased inexplicably, the declaration would unravel the mystery. He or she might be supremely lucky, winning the Lotto once or twice a year, especially when the jackpot reaches double digits.

Personally, I believe the Integrity Act and Commission are a waste of time and money: you cannot induce integrity by legislation; a person either has it or he doesn’t.

In the instant case, the Commission has failed to have this huge number of officials file their declarations, has failed to take any action against them. To underscore its impotence, it has resorted to publishing their names, hoping to “name and shame” them.

But how do you shame people who are shameless?

In what was a case of supreme irony, the Commission took legal action against the architect of the llaw, Panday, and that came about only because he had filed his declaration in which he had failed to declare a bank account in London.

He was charged in 2002 and the case was eventually dismissed by a magistrate in 2012-because the Commission had failed to follow due process.

So Panday was punished after he filed his declaration, but hundreds of others who refuse to file theirs are “named and shamed”. You see why I say the law is an ass?

The Commission has the powers to pursue the delinquents via the High Court, and if they still fail to comply, they can be fined heavily, even jailed—once due process is followed.

But nothing further will come out of this, which is why I submit that the Act should be repealed and the Commission disbanded: put them out of their misery.

The other institution that is failing the country is the presidency. His Excellency President Anthony Carmona committed a serious breach of protocol when he hosted Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro during the latter’s official visit to this country.

Because Maduro is executive President of Venezuela, meaning he is both Head of Government and Head of State, he is entitled to meet with both our Head of State (the President) and Head of Government (the Prime Minister).

But while Maduro is empowered to discuss and negotiate with the PM issues of governance and mutual interest (security, trade, economic cooperation), the visit and talks with our President, who does not have executive powers and must know his limitations, cannot include matters that are the preserve of the Government.

In this instance, President Carmona, live on television, was heard asking Maduro to “do something about those guns coming into our country”, or words to that effect.

Such sensitive matters are discussed privately, and in any event, not by our ceremonial President.

Staying with the President and his opaque permutation of powers, one that has come to the fore is his selection of persons to serve as independent senators. In this case, the President exercises absolute power.

However, because the independents hold the balance of power in the Senate, such persons, besides being intelligent and having experience in general or specific fields that would enhance debate and discussion in the Chamber, must also possess character.

Some of President Carmona’s selections seem to have none of these qualities, and based on what I have read in newspapers, one of them comes across as a common cyber-thug.

Surely, the constitutional powers vested in the President in this regard did not envisage him imposing unsavoury characters on the Upper House.

Such scavenging should be left to political parties, not President’s House.

14 thoughts on “Integrity Commission a waste”

  1. What a great article! This subject is close to my heart and concerns because it impacts so heavily on democracy and the proper running of government. While institutions such as that of the Integrity Commission and the Presidency may not be considered executive in approach, they nevertheless play important roles in shaping how our democracy is conducted. It is one thing to have everything on your side. But if you are the party running the government or the Opposition who appointed cronies to hold those offices. It becomes a disservice to our democracy or creates a monopoly in legislation of good and effective laws. WE DONT WANT TO HAVE AN INTEGRITY COMMISSION WHO ONLY SEES INTEGRITY FROM THE VIEWPOINT OF THOSE HE ONLY SERVES. SIMILARLY, WE DONT WANT A PRESIDENT WHO AONLY APPOINTS PEOPLE TO SERVE THE NARROW INTERESTS OF THOSE WHO APPOINTED HIM.
    Unfortunately, this is where we are today with both institutions.
    We need laws that would discourage this kind of appointments. Another case in point is that of service in the Senate. Why is Wade Mark leader of the Opposition, when he has given service as Speaker of the House? There are some appointments that should not be used as a narrow political ploys for selfish reasons. The appointment of Wade Mark to serve as Opposition Senator is one of them. He served as Speaker of the House which means, he represented Trinidad and Tobago (and NOT the UNC). This is figurative speech of course, but nevertheless, important for the sake of democracy. If he were to be appointed aa a professor at the University, that should be fine, but to serve in the same house that he presided is total nonsense. We need to take another look at these appointments.

  2. Most people do not file because they don’t want the government involved in their business. They also know if they don’t file then there is no consequence to such action. So as is in human nature no consequences equals not need to file.

    The sad reality is the Integrity Commission has been used as a political football to score political point. As was the case when former Judge Ventor was a descenting voice in the fake email debanacle which I gather is still being investigated by our astute asinine police force composed of spineless wimps.

    Rowley who is renown for having parties at his home and building friendship with favours at the time of need met with Ken Gordon and decided upon the great exposè in Parliament accusing a sitting Prime Minister of many nefarious things via email. From the get go email addresses were wrong and it should have been thrown in the dust bin, but this is Trinidad where the press like hungry dogs lunge at any thing to make a fast buck. Everyday for months the emails were highlighted in the newspapers. Facts ignored, to date no one is wiser as to the source of these emails a closely guarded state secret. Strange that it emerged shortly after a former minister of works was fired, one of the nastiest political players and a man with a vendetta.

    The integrity commission will not be given the powers it deserve because crooked politicians always work to protect their own. The IC was responsible for bringing down the Panday administration with the help of Ramesh, MI5 and the police. One cannot say it was all bad. It can be a deadly weapon in the hands of a power hungry political class. As such it would remain.

  3. Mamoo, you only see one way. Obviously, the only reason why the investigation is on-going with the e-mails, is that something is very fishy and there are lingering doubts. Strange, though that the e-mails that were fake from the get-go, made certain parties lawyer-up and decline to provide their computers for scrutiny.

    As for the case of Basdeo Panday. Panday was declared “innocent” or vindicated and the Integrity Commission was found guilty.
    Bottom line – white collar crime and corruption are constitutionalized in Trinidad and Tobago.

      1. anan@gmail does notexist and cannot be created due to gmail “6” characters requirement.

      2. The dates in some of the emails do not match real calendar dates.

      3. The time zone is not consistence

      4. Rowley has changed his tune about Thomas Smitham of the US Embassy involvement

      5. The date format “9/06/12” are wrong

      6. You cannot send one email from 2 different email addresses and the recipient would receive it as one email. In other words you cannot send an email from and to and Kamla would receive one email.

      7. The Judiciary has denied any request was made to promote DPP Gaspard to a judge.

      8. The US Embassy has denied any knowledge of a conspiracy.

      9. Sunday Guardian editor Debra Wanser has denied anyone from the Government ever asked her to pull or suppress any story in connection with Section 34.

      10. The DPP has denied anyone from GOVT approached him about appointment as Judge

      11. United states information technology expert Jon Berryhill says the emails are fraudulent

      12. Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams admits emails fake

      13. US court Docs citing Google data: DOES exist, but alleged Emailgate emails were never sent.

      14. US court docs, citing Google data: DOES exist, but Emailgate emails were never sent.

      15. January 15, 2015. AG Ramlogan wins emailgate defamation claim against Opposition leader Dr. Keith Rowley. Rowley and Al Rawi failed to file a defence in the law suit and asked for an extension. They did not honor the deadline date AGAIN and the judge has ruled against them.

      1. Mamoo, I am no expert on emailgate as you pretends to be, but to make ‘facts’ out of what is released to the public is like saying that the bible was written by Kamla and ‘accepting’ it as gospel. Emailgate remains ‘alive’ because so much was done to short circuit its investigation. I will NOT contest your ‘facts’ because they were subjectively explored, not to reveal the ‘facts’ but rather to provide a view favorable to the main subjects of its creation. If those claiming innocence were so ‘persecuted’ as they claim to be, why have they done everything to mute, short circuit, prosecute, blame,
        propagate and adjudicate and end that might be considered favorable to them? When one is innocent, no amount of fabrication and made up stories can ever convict them of wrong-doing. To just claim that Dr. Keith Rowley has fabricated the emails is not enough. YOU MUST SHOW US HOW HE HAS DONE THAT. YOU MUST TELL US WHO THE CONSPIRATORS ARE THAT HELPED HIM TO CREATE THOSE EMAILS.
        One of the things that we have seen and experienced under the UNC administration is that when the letter of the law does not state precisely what the law is, she takes it upon herself to say that the law is on her side. This is the same method adopted by ALL UNC affiliated thinking people, to say that if the law does not say, it is wrong, then it is right. This is what is really in play here.
        If they are so RIGHT AND INNOCENT, why not allow the law to run its natural course? Why short-circuit the official investigations with the Parliamentary roasting of Dr. Rowley? Why short-circuit the investigations with the appointment and forced end to the investigation by the Integrity Commission? Those are not the moves of innocent people! If anything, those are the moves of people who have something to hide. And that is exactly why emailgate is still ‘alive’ today. When a proper investigation is conducted and an impartial forum is used to bring it to an end, then we can really say, justice is done. But in the meantime, your propaganda will not suffice and Kamla will continue to be suspect as a subject of interest in emailgate.

        1. ” But in the meantime, your propaganda will not suffice and Kamla will continue to be suspect as a subject of interest in emailgate.”

          Kian a suspect for what a bunch of fake emails and the waste of the police time? Rowley should be in jail but he is being protected by senior officers. He wasted the police and public time in a series blunders. Only in TNT can a man bring false information to Parliament and have it under investigation in perpetuity. Only in TNT he can fool half the population in the process. Tomorrow someone can go to Parliament wave a series of false accustion and sully the good character of another Parliamentarian,who now have to do everything to clear their name. As the good book teaches “thou shalt not bear false witness”.

          1. Mamoo, you are doing exactly what I am saying. You are amplifying the point that I am making by continually saying that the emails are fake. What authoritative source that you have that the rest of us do not have to use the word ‘fake’? NONE! It is a subjective view of the UNC talking point, to say that it is ‘fake’. The hope is that this view will stick and everyone else will fall into line with it. You, Kamla, Anand, Moonilal and the rest of the UNC operatives are NOT allowing the situation to be fully vented, through the official channels of adjudication to weigh the pros and cons of it. You guys are really taking in front to make your point of view heard, vented and be the tainted view of the situation. The truth is, nobody really knows the truth. As one whose professional background is in IT, I know what the standards are. But again, IT standards change all the time. What is not allowable today, might very well be allowable tomorrow. BY the same token, what might be disallowed today might be allowed tomorrow. So, to put your argument in stone in terms of what Google says is the norm today might not have been the same standard yesterday. So, please spare me your pontification of what Google or Facebook or any of these carriers might use as general rules. That is exactly the reason why hackers are so prevalent in that industry. They are prevalent because they discover and make good use of the imperfections of the software that is being used worldwide. Wo, when you insist on us believing the word ‘fake’ to describe the emails, those of us who know better, know that you are trying to pull wool over your eyes. I am letting you know that I am not in that category of those who accept ‘fake’ as the term to describe those emails. Convince yourself and your UNC partisans that it is really so but please hold your breadth on that view. It is easy to fool the public when things come over as ‘authoritative’ and that is why people like me have to be there to correct the perceptions.

  4. Well done, Mamoo. So let us look at this at another angle.

    Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley, an educated individual, and an experienced politician got up one morning and came up with wording for a set of e-mails.
    He then sat down (or had someone) and typed all these untruths on a computer or typewriter. He then made copies.
    Dr. Rowley then took a few copies to the Integrity Committee and to the President.
    After about six months or so, Dr. Rowley presented his package of untruths to Trinidad and Tobago and the entire world by way of the Parliament of the Nation, and somehow expected them to become believable as the truth.
    Mamoo, that is your story and you are sticking to it.

    1. Hell u nailed it Frontsman. Except he did not type it up himself nor was he given this information six months prior.
      If you recall a certain international crook was fired by Kams shortly after his firing these emails appeared in Rowley hands. One might say it was a set up by the international crook because he knew he was providing Dr. Rowley with false information. But he was so angry at Kams for firing him that he was willing to do anything to bring down her government. And we all know that everyday this international crook was bringing all kind of sewer trash to throw at Kams.

      All Rowley had to say he was given this information name the source and end the whole debanacle. But to date no one knows the source Frontsman. That is where the investigation should have gone instead of this big hullabaloo about nothing. Any officer of the law should have inquired as to source but like you Frontsman they assume Rowley was right.

  5. How emailgate started.
    “In May 2013, Rowley, during his motion of no confidence against the People’s Partnership Government and the Prime Minister, disclosed the contents of 31 e-mails purporting to be exchanges between Persad-Bissessar, then-attorney general Ramlogan, former minister of local government Surujrattan Rambachan and then-national security adviser to the Prime Minister Gary Griffith. The e-mails alleged these high office-­holders were conspiring to harm a journalist; plant electronic spying devices in the Office of the DPP; offer the DPP a judgeship; and to accept payment from an unnamed woman in exchange for the freedom of people involved in the Section 34 fiasco in September 2012. Persad-Bissessar, on political platforms, has repeatedly called on the police to wrap up the probe into this e-mail scandal.”

    After almost 2 years no action by police.
    AG Ramlogan writes Google.
    ” According to a letter from the United States Department of Justice, dated January 2015, one of the e-mail addresses——purported to have been involved in the scandalous exchanges does not exist. In the letter, acting Director Mary D Rodriguez wrote to Netram Kowlessar, head of the Central Authority in the Ministry of the Attorney General, in response to a request for assistance in the investigations. The letter was enclosed with a computer disk and certificate of authenticity from Google, Inc with information on the e-mail addresses which were named in the controversy. The computer disk contains information regarding Google accounts, and These e-mail addresses are valid and belong to former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal”.

    It is now 3 years and the police is still conducting their “investigations”. Despite having all information provided to them even the former AG requesting it, it appears as though the entire police force is not interested in concluding their “joyride”. So IT expert Kian is better than Google, I think the police investigators also think that they are better than Google. As a calypsonian once said “who is going to guard the guards” I will go further and say who is going to make the guards do their job according to the oath they took upon assuming office to act without fear or favour. They have insult the nation and in my mind that oath has been breached. But that is the nature of a lie it takes more liars to protect it…And the police service have plenty of them.

    1. It is very obvious that your opinions on this matter is stuck with a UNC brush. We have heard all of the UNC arguments and you are offering MORE OF IT. As usual, when you are faced with arguments to the contrary you turn to insults of your opponents. That is because you are only stuck with what is in your head and offers it like it is told to you. UNC version of emailgate is that of a word called ‘fabrication’. It is so because they are unable to tell truths. When truths fails you, then blame is the answer. To fabricate is to make up something. You continue to say he made it up but you are NEVER able to tell us ‘how’. Yes ‘how’ is an important word in the analysis of this matter. UNC verbiage and mindset CANNOT make the distinction and so we are stuck until proper ventilation of this matter can be processed through the proper channels.
      With this being said, this is the end of my dialogue with you until something new arises. If I were to continue it will be repetitive as your opinions expressed. I don’t want to be stuck in that mode and so, I say adios on this matter Mamoo.

      1. So you have two justice system one for the UNC and another for the PNM. Now I understand Kian. I was confused as to why this issue was not resolved speedily. Just like the Sadiq Baskh issue that remains unresolved. One can expect when the UNC is right no justice. When UNC is wrong swift justice. When the PNM is wrong no justice. Example the $50 million secret scholarship find. Joan Yuelles file remain in the bottom draw in the DPP desk. Waiting for her to die. The Calder file in that same desk draw.

        Justice must be blind in order for it to be justice. Blind to personalities and political parties. In the PNM world the opposite is in effect.

        1. Mamoo, I am always trying to remind you that the $50 million scholarship was no secret. Certain people did not benefit, so that is where the “secret” came in.

          Personally, I have no problem if money is used to educate our young citizens, and if you are a true Trini you should feel the same way. However, what you need to be upset about is the $34 million that Life Sport gave to someone openly and not a single child was taught.

          1. Yes very well said Frontsman. I have no problem with people benefitting from the secret $50 million fund. It may surprise you. But my problem is with the way in which it was handled. The PNM chairman should have announce that the government have this secret scholarship fund that is accessible only to PNM supporters. That way no one would feel “excluded”.

            The $34 million is a black stain on the Life Sport program. It was in my opinion a waste of money given to poor kids (mostly PNM supporters) who should have found a job like everyone else and work to earn a living. That is under police investigation and the investigation will conclude just in time before the next elections where appropriate charges will be laid. See timing is everything Fronts.

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