You are here
Environmental Commission collapse?
The startling story of the Environmental Commission, which has been slinking along for the last 13 years with no shortage of funding, raises the prospect another state agency designed to serve the larger interests of the country seems to be falling short of its mandate.
The Environmental Commission, the legal entity created to act as both the court of final arbitration for the Environmental Management Authority as well as the court of appeal for the edicts of the EMA, was assigned $7 million allocation from the government for fiscal 2013.
There seems to be little to justify the considerable expense of the commission’s existence, particularly since of the six sitting commissioners called for in its work, only four have been available, chairman Sandra Paul, deputy chairman Indira Ramrekersingh, Dr Eugene C Laurent and Roger deLacy Carrington.
The terms of all four expired in January. That shouldn’t be a problem for the commission, though, since chairman Sandra Paul has enjoyed a three-year appointment continuously since 2004. When last the country heard about the Environmental Commission, after registrar Andrew Dalip was suspended following allegations of misconduct.
President George Maxwell Richards was reported then to be seeking legal advice regarding the tenure of chairman Sandra Paul after concerns were raised about several matters, including the hiring of Ms Paul’s sister as a caterer.
The Environmental Commission is housed in the EF Telly Paul Building in Port-of-Spain, a structure owned by the chairman’s father, but it is in the process of being relocated. The revelations about the commission come on the heels of the almost complete lack of utility at the National Trust, where the first key assignment of the sitting officers, a listing of protected properties, remains outstanding.
Of the four cases listed on the commission’s Web site, three are matters of order relating to Certificates of Environmental clearance and issues of jurisdiction which were settled through mediation. Only one case, a challenge mounted by Talisman Petroleum Ltd against the EMA over seismic testing in the Nariva wetlands, went to full trial.
Has the commission’s low profile led to it being overlooked as a resource for clarifying critical environmental matters or has embedded disorganisation and institutional lethargy led to a dysfunctional institution? The net result appears to be a commission empowered at the level of a High Court that seems to do little about hot-button environmental issues.
The Environmental Commission can act, for instance, on a specific class of complaint, the Direct Party Action, which allows concerned citizens to bypass the EMA to raise matters directly before the environmental court. Perhaps this is a public relations issue and the good works of the commission are being unjustly overlooked, but what accounts for the shortfalls in executive staffing and the inability of the agency to function at present?
AG Anand Ramlogan said a new board will be appointed this month. Until then, chairman Sandra Paul might feel moved to offer, in the interests of accountability, an informative statement on the commission’s situation as it now stands.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.