Highway CoE commissioners sworn in

The Op­po­si­tion UNC is await­ing word on when pub­lic hear­ings will be­gin by the Com­mis­sion of En­quiry (CoE) in­to the Point Fortin High­way land ac­qui­si­tion is­sue, fol­low­ing yes­ter­day's swear­ing-in of the two com­mis­sion­ers.


The com­mis­sion­ers, jus­tice Se­bastien Ven­tour and at­tor­ney Gre­go­ry Delzin were sworn in by Pres­i­dent Paula-Mae Weekes just be­fore mid­day at Pres­i­dent's House.

Ven­tour, a re­tired judge of the Supreme Court, will chair the CoE. Delzin, in prac­tice for over 20 years, is a for­mer act­ing High Court Judge, a mem­ber of the Statu­to­ry Au­thor­i­ties Ap­peals Tri­bunal and as­so­ciate tu­tor at Hugh Wood­ing Law School. He's ap­peared in courts through­out the Caribbean.

Se­nior Coun­sel Re­gi­nald Amour will al­so serve on the com­mis­sion, as­sist­ed by at­tor­neys Vanes­sa Gopaul and Rishi Dass.

Last week, Gov­ern­ment an­nounced the two-mem­ber com­mis­sion to con­duct the en­quiry in­to all as­pects of the man­age­ment of the land ac­qui­si­tion process by the Na­tion­al In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny Lim­it­ed for the con­struc­tion of the Solomon Ho­choy High­way Ex­ten­sion from San Fer­nan­do to Point Fortin.

Gov­ern­ment cit­ed con­cern re­gard­ing pay­ment of over $500 Mil­lion to ac­quire lands for the high­way. Ap­point­ment of the CoE fol­lowed a pre­lim­i­nary re­port by the Works Min­istry on the sit­u­a­tion in­clud­ing claims and al­le­ga­tions that a val­u­a­tor in the is­sue, was said to have val­ued prop­er­ties pri­vate­ly and al­so func­tioned in the Val­u­a­tions Di­vi­sion. The per­son sub­se­quent­ly left.

Ven­tour didn't an­swer calls. Sources said com­mis­sion mem­bers had re­ceived the Works Min­istry's pre­lim­i­nary re­port and oth­er doc­u­ments last week im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter the CoE an­nounce­ment but hadn't so far or­gan­ised their sched­ule.

Past PP Gov­ern­ment Works Min­is­ter Su­ruj Ram­bachan (who was pre­ced­ed by Jack Warn­er in 2010/12 and Em­manuel George 2012/13 ) said yes­ter­day, "We're await­ing the start of hear­ings. "

"But we ob­serve the CoE starts with con­tro­ver­sy con­cern­ing the com­mis­sion's com­po­si­tion - es­pe­cial­ly one mem­ber. How­ev­er it's been point­ed out that val­u­a­tions in the way it was done (for the land ac­qui­si­tion) start­ed since the Man­ning ad­min­is­tra­tion, es­pe­cial­ly the method of pri­vate treaty ne­go­ti­a­tion and Nid­co had over­sight,"

Ram­bachan will be speak­ing about the is­sue at tonight's Pave­ment Re­port meet­ing in Bar­rack­pore.

At UNC's Mon­day Night Fo­rum, Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad re­it­er­at­ed the CoE was a po­lit­i­cal dis­trac­tion and mil­lion dol­lars "fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion,"

She added, "I've said it be­fore and I'll say it again- if any­one has com­mit­ted wrong­do­ing, let them face the courts. If the Gov­ern­ment feels there's wrong­do­ing, why not pass that in­for­ma­tion to the po­lice? " she added.

She called on the Prime Min­is­ter to have Co­Es in­to the al­leged "fake oil" is­sue, rental of the St Clair prop­er­ty, the Petrotrin clo­sure, sea bridge col­lapse and oth­er is­sues, "|Where's the re­port of the Cli­co CoE? He needs to have a CoE in­to what hap­pened to the more than $229 bil­lion spent over the last four years - where the mon­ey gone?" she added.

 - by Gail Alexander