The Integrity Commission has begun a probe into the contents of the controversial affidavit sworn by Jamaat al Muslimeen leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, and filed in court proceedings in 2006. This is the second such investigation, as the police are conducting a similar inquiry into the contents, in which Bakr alleged that he made a deal with then Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, in exchange for Jamaat support in the marginal constituencies in the run-up to the 2002 general election.
The deal, according to Bakr, included financial gain to the Jamaat for working in the marginal constituencies, funding for the Jamaat school at Mucurapo, and acquisition of state lands for the Jamaat to occupy. Copies of cheques paid to the Jamaat were handed over to the commission yesterday, the T&T Guardian learnt. While Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard has been pressing the police into action, the Integrity Commission has quietly began its own investigation, to determine if there were breaches of the Integrity in Public Life Act, 2000. At the invitation of the commission, Bakr turned up at the offices at UTC Building, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, armed with a written statement, outlining details of the alleged deal he made with Manning in 2002. After spending some 35 minutes at the commission's offices, Bakr emerged with one of his supporters and declined comment on his visit.
The Guardian was informed that the investigation was initiated in accordance with Sections 33 and 34 of the Integrity in Public Life Act. Bakr filed the affidavit in 2006 as his defence to a summons for sale motion brought by then Attorney General, John Jeremie.
The Attorney General filed the summons, seeking permission from the Port-of-Spain High Court, to sell 11 properties to offset a debt for the destruction of Police Headquarters and damage to the Red House, during the 1990 attempted coup. Justice Rajendra Narine admitted Bakr's affidavit into evidence, but the AG appealed. The Court of Appeal ejected the affidavit from the case. Bakr went to the Privy Council, and on May 5, 2009, the Law Lords dismissed the appeal, but expressed reservations at the contents of the affidavit.
Lord Carswell said if the contents were true, that private arrangement between Manning and Bakr was corrupt within the meaning...of Section 3 (of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1987) and "each party to the agreement was acting in contravention of the section." "If the Prime Minister made an agreement on the lines alleged in the affidavit, it could not have been made on behalf of the State," Carswell said. "The essence of the agreement between the Prime Minister and Mr Abu Bakr on behalf of the Jamaat was that certain advantages would be given to the Jamaat out of state property, in return for securing voting support for the Prime Minister's political party." The local Court of Appeal held that the agreement was illegal at common law. Carswell held that the agreement was illegal from its inception.
The case against the Muslimeen leader began in 1994 when the State began proceedings against him and 113 members of the Jamaat for burning down Police Headquarters and damaging the Red House, during the attempted coup in July 1990. On September 6, 1996, the State obtained judgment against Bakr and the Jamaat and on October 15, 2001, Justice Joseph Tam assessed judgment in the sum of $15 million with interest. The obligation climbed to $32 million in 2006. However, when the Attorney General issued a summons demanding the sale of 11 properties in an effort to satisfy the judgment, Bakr swore to an affidavit that he and Manning had met several times and agreed that the State would not enforce the judgment to recover the money. Bakr claimed that there was a clear understanding with Manning that he, Bakr, would mobilise young people to vote for the PNM in marginal constituencies in 2002. He said the meetings with the Prime Minister also agreed on the need for Bakr to assist in curbing the increase in crime in certain areas. Bakr claimed he presented Manning with a list of what the Jamaat wanted in exchange for assisting the governing party and the Government.