PRESIDENT Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar are scheduled to meet tomorrow to hold discussions which are expected to address the issues surrounding the Integrity Commission, including the disclosure of a private meeting between the chairman Ken Gordon and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley at Gordon’s home.
Newsday understands the Office of the President has scheduled the meeting in the President’s diary and a key issue at the meeting will be the Prime Minister’s letter sent to the President over the weekend calling on Carmona to take such action as he sees fit in relation to the disclosure of a secret meeting between Gordon and Rowley on May 15.
That meeting came mere days before a motion of no-confidence in Parliament on May 20 when Rowley called on Gordon’s Commission to probe purported email documents implicating Government officials including the Prime Minister.
In her letter to the President over the weekend, reported exclusively by Newsday yesterday, it is understood the Prime Minister expressed serious concerns over the meeting between the chairman, who holds what is arguably a quasi-judicial post subject to the strictures necessary to maintain an appearance of impartiality.
It is understood the Prime Minister and the President had been due to meet yesterday but this meeting has been rescheduled to tomorrow. The President and the Prime Minister normally hold meetings in line with the Constitution and were recently reported to have formally met on May 8.
The President is on record as stating that new commissioners would be appointed by the end of this week.
The Integrity in Public Life Act calls for five members to constitute the Commission: a chairman, a deputy chairman and three other ordinary commissioners. The Act stipulates that one member should be an attorney of ten years standing; another a certified or chartered accountant. Any one of the members may be designated chairman, in the event of a vacancy. Yet, since under the legislation three members constitute a quorum, the Commission may function even if all five posts are not filled. The President has stated he has interviewed at least 40 candidates.
Under the Act, the President makes appointments to the Commission after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Tomorrow’s meeting will, given the President’s own stated time-line, therefore be a prime opportunity for consultation with the Prime Minister, if this has not occurred before.
The secret May 15 meeting saw Rowley seek confirmation from Gordon on whether the emails he would later flourish in the Parliament chamber had already been referred to the Commission and whether they were being probed by the Commission. Gordon, according to his account in an aide memoire published last week by Newsday, said he informed Rowley that no investigation was ongoing, since the Commission was not fully-constituted.
The secret meeting between both Gordon and Rowley continued to be condemned yesterday.
Former head of the Public Service Commission and Police Service Commission Kenneth Lalla SC said Gordon, as chairman, had “strayed from the path of moral rectitude” and “ought to resign.”
“The question whether Ken Gordon should resign has become a matter of great public importance,” Lalla said. “Unfortunately, we are now living in an age when integrity and probity have had to be propped up by laws and regulations to force people to heed both.”
Lalla continued, “The question of whether chairman Ken Gordon has so conducted himself as to warrant his resignation or removal from office should not be in doubt since it would appear that he has strayed from the path of moral rectitude and ought to resign since he hosted a meeting with the leader of the Opposition at his home and in the absence of the Registrar and — by Gordon’s account — proceeded to discuss official business.”
Lalla said the meeting has damaged perception of the Commission, an important constitutional body which the public must have confidence in.
“The question whether the meeting was so urgent that it could not have been deferred to the next morning or next day is clearly open to serious speculation,” the senior counsel said.
“What is in issue here is whether the chairman has forfeited the trust and confidence of members of the public. That would seem to be the fundamental issue for consideration.”