The Commission of Enquiry into the Las Alturas housing project at Lady Young Road, Morvant, will resume today at 9.30 am at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry Street, Port-of-Spain.The second session of the enquiry, which is being chaired by former Justice of Appeal Mustapha Ibrahim, is scheduled to continue for three days only, in order to accommodate three foreign-based witnesses on behalf of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).
During the last hearing of the first session on March 20, attorney for the Commission Jagdeo Singh revealed that the witnesses would include Frank Arland, a geotechnical engineer of Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers in New York; Dr Robert Ratay, a forensic structural engineer from New York; and John Kangos of Severan Consulting International in Florida.
Singh also assured Ibrahim that efforts were being made to locate former executive chairman of the Urban Development Corporation of T&T Calder Hart, and former HDC general manager Noel Garcia, to have them appear before the Commission.Responding to queries from Ibrahim on the last date, Udecott's attorney Faydia Mohammed said efforts were made via Fed Ex to contact Hart, who is believed to be living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US.
Garcia is said to be living and working in Ghana.HDC's attorney Vincent Nelson, QC, had previously indicated that Garcia had declined to provide a witness statement when asked, following which they lost contact with him.Seemingly dissatisfied with Mohammed's answer that every effort was being made to have Hart present himself before the Commission, Ibrahim suggested that there were legal means which could be employed to compel him to appear.
Ibrahim has promised that accommodations would be made not to keep Hart unduly when he does appear, while there was also the recommendation that an offer be made to pay Garcia's travel expenses back to T&T, in order for him to testify.Both Hart and Garcia have been deemed "important witnesses" in the enquiry.During the 13-day enquiry four witnesses have so far testified before the Commission.
At a glance
The commission of enquiry was set up to investigate "the entire process which led to the construction of the Las Alturas Towers at Lady Young Gardens, Morvant, and all other acts, matters or decisions done or undertaken incidental to and including the construction" of the project, which includes the procurement process.Two multi-storey units of the Las Alturas housing project began falling apart after construction and the $26 million towers were earmarked for demolition.
They were part of a larger project, which was originally budgeted at $65 million and then rose to $90 million. The commission is chaired by former Justice of Appeal Mustapha Ibrahim. The other members include civil engineers, Dr Myron Wing-Sang Chin and Anthony Farrell. Attorney Laraine Lutchmedial is the secretary. They were appointed by President Anthony Carmona last December. Last September, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar recommended an enquiry into the project after raising concerns about the two towers which had to be demolished.
Persad-Bissessar said Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who was a former housing minister under the PNM, as well as Emily Gaynor Dick-Forde, who succeeded him, have distanced themselves from blame. Rowley said though he welcomed the probe, it would be another waste of taxpayers' dollars.
Attorneys for the Commission include Pamela Elder, SC and Jagdeo Singh–both of whom are instructed by Alvin Pariagsingh.Appearing on behalf of the HDC are Vincent Nelson, QC and Larry Lalla.Kathryn Denbow is Udecott's lead attorney, and appearing alongside her is Faydia Mohammed and Brendon Sullivan.Attorney Justin Phelps is appearing alongside Anabelle Sooklal for Geotech Associates Limited (GA), while Emerson John-Charles and Zenobia Campbell-James are appearing on behalf of Civil Engineering Management and Services.