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Daly on Ventour’s Integrity Commission return: Silliness of season
Former Law Association president Martin Daly has slammed yesterday’s re-appointment of Justice Sebastian Ventour as deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission, weeks after he had resigned from the position to deliver three outstanding judgments he had before the High Court. In a brief comment to the T&T Guardian yesterday, Daly said: “Carnival time is the appropriate time to make such appointments.” Asked to elaborate, Daly said: “The comment speaks for itself. It is in keeping with the silliness of the season.” Ventour was re-appointed to the position by president Anthony Carmona at the Office of the President, St Ann’s, yesterday but when reporters tried to get a comment after he was sworn in he dismissed the questions. Saying there were many other issues affecting the country, Ventour said: “Ladies and gentlemen, I think you should redirect the cameras. There are so many ills affecting T&T at this point in time. You have got to refocus.”
He said he was “going back to the Integrity Commission to continue a job I started and I hope your prayers are with me.” In response to another question, he replied: “No comment. No further comment at all, thank you.” Ventour then left the Office of the President with his daughter, Kelly-Ann, who witnessed his swearing-in. The President’s aide-de-camp, Lt Commander Don Polo, said Ventour’s re-appointment was made after the President consulted with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley. He added that the appointment as a puisne judge for one day was done on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. Chief Justice Ivor Archie is the chairman of the JLSC. Polo said the practice of reappointing a judge “who has retired and is active in other endeavours in order to do the delivery of outstanding judgments is not without precedent in T&T,” and was “generally done in alignment with the public interest so that closure can be brought to outstanding matters in the court.” After leaving President’s House, Ventour went to the commission’s offices, where he met with Gordon and registrar Martin Farrell. Farrell said Ventour was welcomed back and “we are prepared to move on with the work of the commission.”
Ventour’s resignation had in effect stalled the board of the Integrity Commission from meeting since he was the only one with a legal background, a strict requirement of the act. Commission chairman Kenneth Gordon said earlier this month that Ventour’s resignation had not had any negative effect on the image of the commission and was optimistic about his reappointment.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and another former president of the Law Association, Dana Seetahal, SC, had previously expressed concern over Ventour’s decision to resign from the commission so that he could be reappointed a judge for one day to give outstanding judgments. Seetahal said yesterday she had no further comment on the matter, saying only that her initial comments were made in a specific context. Ramlogan also said yesterday he had no comment. Several other lawyers said they were upset with the decision. However, they noted it had made a mockery of both the judicial system and the Integrity Commission in the first instance and was now exacerbating that situation. They all refused to comment on record.
One questioned when Ventour would have written the three judgments. If he had done so while sitting as a member of the commission it would have contravened the Integrity in Public Life Act, the senior lawyer said. The proper thing to do, the lawyer said, was for the Chief Justice to grant Ventour an extension in office, upon his retirement, to complete all outstanding judgments.
In the past, several judges who have resigned, including Justices Lennox Deyalsingh, David Myers and Andre Mon Desir, have all been reappointed to complete outstanding judgments. A lawsuit challenging a judgment of Myers after his resignation is before the High Court.
• Retired from the Judiciary in 2012.
• The former judge was first appointed a member of the commission on July 2, 2013.
• He resigned on February 5.
• Ventour was appointed a puisne judge on February 6 for one day to give judgments on three outstanding matters, including one on the Mora Ven Holdings Ltd/Krishna Persad and Associates Ltd matter.
What Ramlogan and Seetahal said earlier: Attorney General Anand General said it was “not desirable” for a judge who has retired subsequently to deliver a judgment and every effort must be made to ensure that judgments are delivered during the tenure of judges. Describing Ventour’s resignation as a “complete shock and disappointment,” Ramlogan said it had left a void at a time when the commission was stabilising in the aftermath of so many fumbles and false starts. Seetahal had said: “The sequence of events suggests he was made a temporary judge only for the purpose of the delivering the judgments, which suggests that prior to his reappointment, he must have been deliberating and contemplating these judgments, which is the work of a judge. “That means he would have been doing that when he was a member of the commission which law does not permit a judge to sit as a one of its members.”
What AG, Seetahal said earlier: Attorney General Anand General said it was “not desirable” for a judge who has retired subsequently to deliver a judgment and every effort must be made to ensure that judgments are delivered during the tenure of judges. Describing Ventour’s resignation as a “complete shock and disappointment,” Ramlogan said it had left a void at a time when the commission was stabilising in the aftermath of so many fumbles and false starts. Seetahal had said: “The sequence of events suggests he was made a temporary judge only for the purpose of the delivering the judgments, which suggests that prior to his reappointment, he must have been deliberating and contemplating these judgments, which is the work of a judge. “That means he would have been doing that when he was a member of the commission which law does not remit a judge to sit as one of its members.”
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