Not true Dr Rowley

Date: 
Friday, November 1, 2019 - 05:15

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.”

How­ev­er, the T&T Guardian has con­firmed this is not true and that Smith was ques­tioned by the com­mit­tee on May 7, 2018, on the al­le­ga­tions made by for­mer min­istry em­ploy­ee Cher­rie-Ann More­au.

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.”

The ref­er­ence was to com­mit­tee mem­ber Fo­lade Mu­to­ta, a for­mer In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tor.

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.

In an in­ter­view on I95FM ear­li­er this month, PM Row­ley was asked about why he had not yet made the re­port in­to the mat­ter pub­lic de­spite sev­er­al calls for him to do so from var­i­ous sec­tors of the so­ci­ety, among them Fix­in’ T&T. In re­sponse, Row­ley said he could not pub­licly re­veal the con­tents of the re­ports be­cause it “... came to a con­clu­sion neg­a­tive­ly about Mr Smith with­out talk­ing to him.” Row­ley said Smith’s lawyers had com­plained of the process in­volved and threat­ened to take ac­tion if the re­port were made pub­lic.

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.”

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Story by CURTIS WILLIAMS

Image courtesy CA IMAGES

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