Planning, Housing and the Environment Minister Emily Dick-Forde says the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) is right to legally challenge allegations of bias against it by the Uff Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Sector.
In a statement issued on Monday, Udecott confirmed it had filed for judicial review of the Commission of Enquiry. It added that the action was not an attempt on its part "to challenge or undermine the Government's decision, or the actions taken by the State to validate the hearings thus far." In a telephone interview from New York on Tuesday, Dick-Forde said she had no problems with Udecott's latest move. "The Udecott board took the decision and I agree with it because I consider that as the correct process for them to take," she added. Dick Forde, who is line minister for Udecott, also insisted that Attorney General John Jeremie and Udecott were not at odds with each other over the continuation of the enquiry. "He (Jeremie) is committed to the continuation of the work of the commission and he understands Udecott's move," she insisted.
Dick-Forde said she had been meeting with Jeremie regularly to discuss the enquiry.
"The last meeting took place shortly before I left for New York on Sunday with Prime Minister Patrick Manning, to attend a climate change conference," she said. Dick-Forde said Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Jeremie and the Government as a whole remained committed to ensuring that the work of the commission resumes and a report is submitted upon its conclusion. The commission was established last year by President George Maxwell Richards, on the advice of Prime Minister Manning and began public hearings at the Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain in January. It has completed three rounds of hearings and was about to begin a fourth on September 7, when Chairman Uff announced that the legal requirement to publish the holding of the commission in the Gazette, was not met. He then suspended the commission indefinitely. Jeremie had subsequently announced in Parliament that legislation to validate the work of the commission and to allow it to resume, would be taken to Parliament shortly. And commenting on the non-gazetting of the enquiry, Dick-Forde said yesterday that it was very important that "we find out how the Commission was not gazetted. That was an embarrassment to all of us."
She said she believed Manning was "an honourable man who would not establish the Commission of Enquiry and try to abort it before its natural conclusion and the submission of its report." Asked if there was any likelihood that Jeremie would be moving to discontinue moves to validate the work of the commission, Dick-Forde stressed: "Absolutely not. That is not on the agenda. There is not going to be any backing down by Government to have the commission complete its work." Dick-Forde said if one were to read the statement of Jeremie and Udecott's statement, one would see that they are saying one and the same thing. "The AG is not vex with Udecott," she added.