Monday, November 2, 2009

Uff has serious questions to answer

“I would like to share with you my recent interview with the Guardian which was published yesterday. In the interview Ken Ali asked me about my thoughts on the ongoing matter of the Commission of Enquiry into the TT Construction Sector, UDeCOTT and media bias. However, you should be aware that the interview was edited. The words in red in the interview were those which Ken Ali deleted. You should also know that I have had many conversations with Mr. Ali in which I have questioned him (and received no satisfactory answers) as to why my views on a host of matters ranging from how the operations of the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of Transparency International are not in conformity with those of Transparency International to why nobody is questioning why the Police are not investigating NH International for possible larceny as was recommended by the Commission of Enquiry into the Scarborough General Hospital are not being published and why he is not inviting me onto his radio program to inform the public of these matters.”

Montano: Uff has serious questions to answer
Ken Ali

Q:You have a lonely position on Udecott. You are insisting that the State Corporation did not get a fair shake from the Uff Commission of Enquiry. What is the evidence of bias?

A: When the chairman of the Commission, before hearing the evidence from Udecott, says words to the effect, “It seems as if Udecott was operating as a law unto itself...,” there is a strong presumption that he has made up his mind without hearing the other side.

How would you like to be in a matter before a judge who makes that kind of comment about you before you had a chance to put your side of the story?
Why did Uff allow attorneys for the other sideno time limit to make their opening submissions, but seek to put Udecott’s attorneys under manners by” giving them under 45 minutes to make their opening submissions?

Why did Uff get certain written submissions from ex-employees of Udecott and, at first, refuse to show them to Udecott’s lawyers and then agree only on the condition that they do not show itto their client?
How can a lawyer deal with evidence from the other side if he is not allowed to find out from his client what the client has to say about the evidence? There are lots of other examples, but hopefully you get the point.

Was there also media bias?
Why has the media not reported on any of the matters that show bias by the Commission?
Why has the media not reported, or explained with sufficient clarity, as to why Udecott’s lawyers have applied for protection of the court by way of judicial review?
Why has the media refused to publish any stories that might show Udecott in a different light, or, at least, publish those stories that show that Udecott’s prime accusers are not exactly coming up with clean hands?

And I have a lot of examples on this as you well know. If I had more space I would give you chapter and verse but space in this interview is limited. Invite me on to your radio program and I’ll give all the examples……that is, of course, if you really want me to expose the bias of the media on issues ranging from Transparency International to the findings of the Scarborough Hospital Commission of Enquiry and the refusal by the police to investigate same.

Why, then, didn’t Udecott’s high-priced attorneys protest officially during the hearings?
Good question! I don’t know. Why don’t you ask them?

Is all of this a slur against Professor John Uff, a highly-respected international professional?
It is irrelevant to the case I am making as to whether or not Uff has a good reputation. I am dealing with how he conducted this enquiry. And, having reviewed a fair amount of the evidence, I am satisfied that he has some serious questions to answer. I have seen too much to be sanguine about the fairness of this enquiry.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Isn’t this relevant to this matter?
Absolutely! But—and it is a big but—it is also a cornerstone of our judicial system that every person (even the men who murdered my cousin!) is entitled to a fair trial or hearing. One of the bedrock principles of our justice system is that it is better for ten guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be hanged.

Surely, you are not saying there was no wrongdoing at Udecott.
I am not in a position to make a determination of guilt or innocence. What I am complaining about is the unfairness of how this enquiry has not only been conducted, but the emotional, speculative and sometimes demagogic way in which it has been conducted in the public discourse.

Critics say Udecott is a rogue elephant. What are your views?
There are very serious questions that need to be answered that have not, to date, been answered satisfactorily. But if the hearings are not fair, then unfortunately, everything gets muddied.

Should Udecott be given State contracts while it is under probe?
I could answer that question either way. Yes, because nobody has been found guilty of anything and the hearings have not been fair. No, because even though the hearings have not been fair, there are very serious questions to answer on the part of Udecott. And here again a fair-minded person would understand why it is important for an enquiry such as this to be conducted absolutely fairly from the beginning.

Should Commissioners Israel Khan and Kenneth Sirju have resigned?
One of the matters the Commission was supposed to probe was the collapse of the scaffolding a few years ago at the Customs building, where a number of workers were injured. Shortly after the incident, Mr Sirju was commissioned by the contractor, NH International, to write an expert report for the benefit of NH. Would you like for me to be sitting in judgement of your actions where I was engaged to give an opinion on a matter in which you are now in dispute with the person who paid me? Do I really have to explain this? As for Israel Khan, his so-called robust questioning was totally inappropriate for a person sitting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity.

What are your views on the non-gazetting of the Commission?
Total incompetence on somebody’s part! Whose? I don’t know. But here again, we are seeing the consequences of a biased or incompetent media. If this was, say, the United States, don’t you think the media would have found out and reported who was to blame? So why has this not been done here? And don’t come to with me with the Lucky probe. The media abroad does not wait for the” media” authorities to spoon-feed them with information.

Should the Udecott Board of Directors be removed?
A loaded question! Yes, if they are guilty, and, no, if they are not. But if the Commission has not been fair to Udecott, should we still hang them? Would that be fair?

How do you feel about Michael Annisette serving both as a Udecott Director and an Independent Senator?
From day one, I have been critical of his appointment as an Independent Senator. I simply do not accept that he embodies the principles of what an Independent Senator should be. Further, I do not accept that a person can be an Independent Senator and a member of State Board. From my perspective, it is wrong. I blame President Max Richards for this.

Do you have confidence that the Commission’s report would be made public without being sanitised?
The publication of a defective report can have serious legal consequences.
For example, assuming (although at this stage whether we like it or not, we cannot publicly accept) that the report highlights wrongdoing on the part of some person or persons and the court holds that person or persons has not been treated fairly by the Commission, do you realise the person could escape Scot free? For example, look at the Rowley matter with the Integrity Commission. Do you realise that Dr Rowley’s case was that the Integrity Commission was wrong to refer the criminal accusations that were being made against him to the DPP, without him first being allowed to be heard? The court agreed that Rowley was right. The question of whether he was guilty of anything has never been determined. At least, if it has, it has not been widely reported. In other words, the guilt or innocence of Dr Rowley has never been determined. Is this a good thing?


  1. Nice prespective Robin... I don't know what to make of this whole story, but the debate just seems to be waaaaay to emotional and dominated by rumor and hearsay much mroe than by facts and evidence...

  2. Robin you are just a publicity seeker as George Umbala Joseph said you are just a failed actor . You just want a stage to parade your bad logic.I never knew you to be one of the bright legal minds.Stick to cussing cases like Nagessar vs Hart.when Panday was looking for a lawyer he didn't choose you.People stealing the patrimony of the country and you trying to play legal games