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Two to replace Jairam, Toney
Following a scramble to find replacements to lead the Ministry of Finance team at the Clico commission of enquiry, British Queen’s Counsel Vincent Nelson and San Fernando-based attorney Roger Kawalsingh have been given the briefs which were returned by Law Association president Seenath Jairam SC and Congress of the People chairman Joseph Toney.
The T&T Guardian understands Nelson and Kawalsingh have been retained by the ministry, following discussions yesterday. Sources say Nelson is due to arrive in T&T sometime today where he will meet another attorney, Jagdeo Singh, in seeking the ministry's interest at the enquiry which resumes on Monday.
Nelson, who is no stranger to this country's legal system, has acted as adviser to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan's pet project — The A-team. The team was established in 2010 and included British lawyer Alan Newman QC (chairman); Guyana commercial lawyer Akbar Ali (co-chairman for legal matters); British forensic accountant Martin Hall (who is now deceased) and local public law attorneys Mark Seepersad and Gerald Ramdeen.
It was given a mandate to audit state enterprises to unearth corruption. Nelson is also the lead counsel in the civil matter against members of the former e-Teck board and is listed as one of the attorneys seeking the interest of the AG in a suit against G-pan creator, Prof Brian Copeland, for ownership of the patent for the modified version of the national instrument, the Percussive Harmonic Instrument (PHI) pan.
Nelson's other legal briefs on behalf of the AG also include investigating the construction of the Brian Lara Stadium, Tarouba; purchase of the fast ferry, the MV Su; construction of the Scarborough Hospital, a probe into T&TEC, Petrotrin and the University of T&T.
Apart from being an attorney, Kawalsingh is also a member of a new committee which was officially installed last year to guide the operations of the Financial Assistance (Studies) Programme, which is run by the Ministry of Community Development. The attorneys will have their work cut out since they will have only this weekend to prepare themselves for Monday’s enquiry.
Two weeks ago the initial attorneys retained by the Finance Ministry — Fyard Hosein, SC, and Michael Quamina — were fired by e-mail. They sought the interest of the ministry for 18 months, prior to be relieved from their posts. No reason was given for the termination of their services. The enquiry is expected to end next March.
Following the termination of their services, the ministry appointed Jairam, Toney and Singh to seek its interest. However, following public uproar and stinging criticism from Queen’s Counsel Karl Hudson-Phillips, Jairam and Toney decided to return the briefs.
Many saw Jairam’s acceptance of the brief as a conflict of interest since he once represented a group of Clico policyholders led by Percy Farrell who sued the office of the AG. Jairam had argued there was no conflict of interest since the representation made on behalf of the policyholders was to argue a constitutional point and had nothing to do with the substantive portion of the case.
This argument was disputed by several attorneys, one of them being Hudson-Phillips, who called on him to exercise better judgement and step down as head of the Law Association. Toney, in a media release said he returned the brief due to public perception. When contacted Singh said he had no comment to make.
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