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HCU enquiry to resume in September
Sir Anthony Colman, chairman of the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) Enquiry, has called for more funding if any further need arises when hearings resume in September. He was repeating sentiments he raised in May, when he said the enquiry was a “very expensive” exercise. He was speaking on the closing day of the week-long session yesterday at the Winsure Building, Port-of-Spain.
Deborah Peake, lawyer for HCU liquidator, Ramdath Rampersad, took the opportunity to ask for the air-conditioning system of the room to be fixed and even suggested that she would recommend a “reputable company” to do the repairs, which evoked loud laughter in the closing minutes of the hearing.
“May I invite you to make a further direction, not relating to this proceedings, and for all working hard to make representation to have the air-conditioning repaired, so that when the next sitting takes place in September we would be able to sit in comfort?” she said. Since June the air-conditioning system has had technical problems and Peake had complained previously.
According to a Guardian report on June 5, $11.9 million had been allocated for legal fees/remuneration to the chairmen and members of commissions of enquiry into Clico/HCU and the 1990 coup attempt. The report indicated that then Finance Minister Winston Dookeran said the Government had sought $1.5 billion in supplementary budget funding for expenses in seven ministries, including costs for two commissions of enquiry, the CEPEP programme and public transport.
Colman said the hearings will take place from September 19 to 21 because of the need to hear additional evidence. He said September’s hearings will be “short and to the point.” Four additional witnesses, including former Finance Minister Karen Tesheira, will testify.
Earlier this week Vishnu Dhanpaul, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, told the enquiry he had no knowledge of an alleged assurance by Tesheira that the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) would be provided with a $71 million loan. Dhanpaul did say, however, that Tesheira would help the credit union in principle.
After a long week, in which former HCU president Harry Harnarine had verbal clashes with the lawyers and even the lead counsel to the enquiry, Edwin Glasgow who called him an “ass,” Harnarine was less vocal yesterday. Farid Scoon, Harnarine’s lawyer, compared his remuneration to that of a CEPEP worker “pulling bull” while cross-examining him.
Scoon referred to Peake, who while cross-examining Harnarine spoke about his “extravagant spending.” “Mrs Peake said you received, over a period of ten years, a Christmas bonus of $30,000. Your Christmas bonus for running a billion-dollar industry was $3,300 a year. “So what is the average money Mr Harnarine would have received from the credit union over that period of tenure as president? That would have been an average of $1,375 a month.
“Then you got reimbursement of $28,000 an average of $2,800 a year. I dare say you were paid like a CEPEP worker pulling bull,” he said. Scoon, while cross-examining Harnarine, also referred to Hindu leader Sat Maharaj, who gave evidence at the enquiry. Maharaj had said Harnarine could have moved former prime ministers Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday, whenever he wanted.
“So you are a king maker, and the counsel for the Ministry of Finance said the same thing. You were in the corridors of power. You said you made Winston Dookeran form a party so that they could get the PNM out of power. “I am suggesting that every man on the street knows that you had that power. They know your power, your dynamism, your acumen and vision,” Scoon said.
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