Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley appears not to have told the entire truth when he spoke at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference and claimed that he could not make the report into the conduct of former Sports and Youth Affairs minister Darryl Smith available to the public because Smith was not given a chance by the investigative committee to give his side of the story.
Rowley told the news conference: “It was confirmed he was not spoken to by the compilers of the report but they came to conclusions adverse to Mr Smith.”
In a letter to Permanent Secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister Maurice Suite, which the T&T Guardian has a copy of, Smith’s attorney, Annabelle Sooklal, confirmed that Smith met with the committee on that date and of what transpired during the session, some of which disturbed the attorney, especially since she was of the view that one of the members of the committee had spoken ill of her client prior to the meeting.
She wrote: “I will immediately point out that when my client attended before the Committee on May 7, 2018, to be questioned, I was present and enquired of its Terms of Reference, but at no point was any of this information provided.”
Sooklal further wrote: “My client made a decision to co-operate fully with the Committee despite the ill-advised and disturbing comments made by Member Mutota in every public forum made available to her upon being appointed. He did so after expressing his grave concern about fairness of the process and receiving the Committee’s assurance that he would be treated fairly.”
In the post-Cabinet briefing yesterday, the Prime Minister asserted that Smith was not given an opportunity by the committee to respond to its adverse findings and from Sooklal’s letter, it appears that the former minister was not spoken to after the investigation was completed and before the final report was compiled and sent to the Prime Minister.
According to Sooklal, on June 18, 2018, Smith was told by the Office of the Prime Minister that the committee’s report would be made available to him. However, when arrangements were made to collect it from the OPM on June 19, Smith was told it was not yet ready since a covering letter to accompany the report was being done. Weeks later, up to August 14, no report was provided to Smith by the OPM.
In fact, Smith’s lawyers alleged there was a failure of the Prime Minister or his office to provide Smith with the findings. Rather, they provided excerpts of the findings. This, Sooklal asserted, was in fact a breach of the minister’s rights and this action of the Prime Minister’s office was a major reason for her challenging the very report.
In her letter Sooklal said:
I therefore identify the following further issues:
Breach 4: The refusal or failure by you and by the Committee to disclose the report to my client in a timely manner and immediately upon receipt.
Breach 5: The omission by you and by the Committee to disclose the report to my client a month and 15 days after its delivery and continuing.
Breach 6: Your invitation to him to comment on allegedly excerpted portions of a final report, devoid of context and after the Committee has reached its conclusions, depriving him of full exercise of his right to be heard.
It is the failure of the Office of the Prime Minister to provide Smith with the final findings that appears to have earned to ire of his attorney and she wrote to the PS to the Prime Minister: “You have declined to disclose the report for reasons best known to you, however, you invite my client to comment on the (possibly) excerpted portions of the report for the reason that its release will draw adverse criticism. You give no indication as to what you propose to do with his comments should he be so ill-advised as to accept your invitation since the Committee has already arrived at conclusions.”
Moreau had alleged sexual harassment as the reason for her dismissal as Smith’s personal assistant and the matter was eventually settled with a non-disclosure clause attached to the settlement.
Smith was subsequently fired as minister of sports by Rowley.
Yesterday, Rowley claimed he did all he could in the circumstances.
“But the important thing what I had to do I have done and I did that early before this report, which was to use the authority I had, the authority to appoint Mr Smith, he was appointed and the same authority he was dismissed. I know of no other sanction I could apply to Mr Smith as Prime Minister dealing with a minister, the ultimate sanction had been applied.”
Story by CURTIS WILLIAMS
Image courtesy CA IMAGES