Embattled chairman of the Integrity Commission Zainool Hosein last night broke his silence over claims that the commission issued an incorrect statement announcing the termination of its investigation into the Emailgate matter, saying he did "nothing wrong."
Questioned about the strong and uncharacteristic statements made by former deputy chairman Sebastian Ventour, a former High Court judge, after his sudden resignation on Thursday, Hosein, a retired Appeal Court judge and former president of the Retired Judges Association, said, "I cannot speak on the issue of the (former) deputy chairman, I am unable to answer any questions because the Integrity Commission is not constituted."
Ventour said on Thursday that the statement issued by the commission to the Prime Minister's attorney Israel Khan, SC, on Tuesday, which stated that there was "no or insufficient grounds" to continue the probe, was misleading to the public because it was incorrect. He added that up to the time just prior to his resignation, the commission had not yet received all the information it sought from email service providers.
Ventour said he had walked out of a meeting called by Hosein to discuss the matter before it ended, however, so he was uncertain whether the other commissioners had agreed to the release of the statement.
On Wednesday, another member of the commission, Dr Shelly Anne Lalchan, also resigned citing personal reasons.
The Office of the President yesterday acknowledged receipt of the two resignations. However, the statement did not address the concerns raised among various sectors of the public yesterday about Ventour's claims.
In an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Hosein admitted that the commission was no longer functional because of Ventour's departure. He said according to the Integrity in Public Life Act there must be five sitting commission members, one of whom must be a deputy chair.
"Incidentally, there is no longer an Integrity Commission," Hosein said.
Hosein said the word "collapse" had been bandied about already, but the fact was that with two of the five members gone, there was no commission until they were replaced.
Members of the media tracked Hosein for most of yesterday, which Hosein and his family strongly objected to.
"I feel like I was in some lynch mob. This is not right," Hosein said.
He said because he was approached at his mosque by journalists yesterday, the Muslim community had become upset by reporters' actions.
"I am going to protest this. I am going to report this to the Media Association (of T&T)," he said.
The prime minister's attorney Israel Khan, SC, yesterday confirmed that Hosein worked in his private law chambers.
He, however, denied all claims that Hosein acted with any bias when he issued the statement clearing Persad-Bissessar.
But he said he respected Ventour's right to his opinion.
"My view is that he is entitled to his opinion," Khan said.
He said that while he did not know how the Integrity Commission operated, it comprised five members and there must have been a consensus before the statement was issued.
"If there is a claim of bias, then the decision could be taken before the courts and nullified," Khan said.
He said, however, that any speculation that he and Hosein acted in cahoots was "ridiculous."
"This is a small country and everyone knows each other or someone that knows someone. The man worked in this chamber but he is a man of impeccable integrity and character," Khan said.
Khan said if there was sufficient evidence found against the Prime Minister, then even as her lawyer he would call for her to be "locked up."
"If there is no evidence found on two of the four persons being investigated and all four of them were supposed to be talking to each other, then if no evidence is found on two, it stands that the conversation did not take place," he said.
Ventour, Khan said, seemed to want the Integrity Commission to do the work of the police.
He said it was now up to the investigators to find out who was behind the creation of the thread of emails that Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley read out in Parliament on May 20, 2013, which formed the substance of his no-confidence motion against Persad-Bissessar.
The emails, which bore similar email addresses as those of the Prime Minister, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, Works and Transport Minister Suruj Rambachan and former national security minister Gary Griffith, discussed a criminal conspiracy to harm a journalist, spy on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), offer the DPP a judgeship to remove him from office, among other acts.
The commission had engaged in a lengthy legal battle with email service provider, Google Inc, in the US and had obtained email correspondence for both the PM and the former AG. It was yet to receive information relating to two other accounts.
A parallel investigation by the police service is ongoing.
Law body concerned
The Law Association is calling on President Anthony Carmona to immediately intervene in the affairs of the Integrity Commission, following the resignation of two members this week. The association's vice president Gerry Brooks made the call in a press release yesterday, hours after the commission's deputy chairman, retired Appeal Court judge Sebastian Ventour, suddenly resigned over the commission's public comments on the termination of its Emailgate investigation.
The day before, another commissioner, Dr Shelly Anne Lalchan, had also ended her tenure at the commission.
In his release, Brooks said Ventour's statement that he decided to quit over an erroneous release on the investigation issued by the commission on Tuesday had caused his organisation "great concern."
He also called on the commission's president, retired justice of appeal Zainool Hosein, to make an immediate public statement on the "serious allegations" made by Ventour.