Last update: 09-Dec-2013 1:37 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Section 34 probe gathers steam
The Integrity Commission has begun its investigation into the Section 34 e-mails and says it has received a reply to its inquiries from an overseas service provider. The commission said in a release yesterday that it “has had a response from an international electronic mail service provider and is moving ahead with its investigation.”
Although the commission did not name the provider, the companies from which assistance was being sought were Google and Microsoft. The police investigators have said they have not had any response from these same providers to two requests for help in tracing the sources of the e-mails. The commission said it secured legal advice on whether it had the authority to conduct the probe and the advice confirmed that it did.
When the e-mails were made public, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had said the police were the competent body to investigate and not the Integrity Commission. However, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who had called on the commission to investigate the matter from the inception, reiterated yesterday it was the correct and proper thing to do, as the matter related to officials in public office. He said it was not something to be happy or sad about.
“It is the right thing to do and it should have been investigated by the Intgerity Commission from the start,” he insisted. He asked why the PM and the AG would have attempted to “mislead the country” by seeking to give the impression that the commission had no power to investigate the matter. He said if the commission was investigating, it would be an offence for anyone not to co-operate with the investigators.
Rowley initially gave the e-mails to then President George Maxwell Richards, who forwarded it to the commission. “The Integrity Commission always had the power to investigate the matter,” Rowley insisted. The PNM’s national security adviser Gary Griffith told the T&T Guardian yesterday that he did not fall under the purview of the Integrity Commission but was willing and ready to assist if required to ensure a speedy end to the “total fiasco.”
When the e-mails were made public, the Prime Minister said the matter should be investigated by the police. That investigation is still taking place. Integrity Commission chairman Kenneth Gordon has recused himself from the investigation, having met with Rowley at his residence in Glencoe days before the motion was presented for debate. There have been several calls for Gordon to resign because of the meeting, but he has maintained he did nothing wrong.
A release from the commission said in June it had sought and received legal advice confirming that it has the authority to do its own probe, despite the fact that the police were also investigating.
The Senior Counsel’s advice said it was “entirely a matter for the commission to determine whether, notwithstanding the police investigation, it wishes to exercise its own jurisdiction under the act to carry out its own investigations utilising its powers under the act to determine whether the purported e-mails disclose dishonest or corrupt conduct, conduct conducive to corruption or breaches of the act on the part of persons in public life or persons who fall under the purview of the commission.”
Ater the investigation, said the legal opinion, if the commission is satisfied there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, it must make a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The e-mails were presented in Parliament by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on May 20. Rowley read out the 31 e-mails during his presentation of a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He said then the e-mails were allegedly sent from e-mail addresses belonging to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and other cabinet ministers and government officials, including Gary Griffith, the national security adviser to the PM.
He said the e-mails were part of a conspiracy by the Government to deal with the negative fallout from the early proclamation of a section of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 in August last year. The legislation was repealed after emergency sittings of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The e-mails referred to attempts by Government officials to tap the phone of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and also to intimidate the Guardian reporter who broke the story of the bill’s early proclamation.
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