PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has written President Anthony Carmona calling the President to take such action as he sees fit in relation to the disclosure last week of a secret meeting between chairman of the Integrity Commission Ken Gordon and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley at Gordon’s private home.
Newsday understands from sources at the Office of the President that the Prime Minister has written a letter expressing serious concern over the disclosure that both men met on May 15, mere days before Rowley in Parliament called on Gordon’s Commission to probe purported email materials which Rowley brandished in the chamber on May 20.
In an aide memoire written by Gordon, which was issued to Newsday last Thursday by Integrity Commission Registrar Martin Farrell, Gordon said on May 15, Rowley left a message requesting an “urgent meeting” with the chairman leaving a mobile number.
Gordon then twice called Rowley’s mobile phone and, on the second attempt, suggested Rowley – a person in public life subject to the Commission – meet him at his 24 Newbury Hill, Glencoe, home since Rowley was already on his way home and both live in the same neighbourhood.
At this meeting, Rowley requested and received responses from Gordon over the status of purported email materials, the same materials he was about to raise in Parliament five days later.
It is understood the Prime Minister, in her letter to the President sent at the weekend, has expressed serious concern over these disclosures and calls on the President to take action under the powers available to him under the Integrity in Public Life Act which allow a President to revoke an appointment or terminate one.
There were reports yesterday that the President was conducting a review of the matter and could well be poised to respond to the Prime Minister’s letter or take some form of action soon.
The President is already on record as saying he will make an appointment of new commissioners this week and, under the provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act, any one of the new commissioners whom he may have already had in mind for this purpose could be selected to be elevated as chairman in the event of a vacancy in that post. Carmona has said he interviewed 40 persons.
As pressure continued to mount on both men, Gordon and Rowley were relatively low-key yesterday.
Gordon was not in office at the Commission’s offices at Independence Square, Port-of-Spain, while Rowley obtained a leave of absence from yesterday afternoon’s sitting of the Parliament.
Newsday was further informed that the Registrar of the Commission, Martin Farrell – who released the aide memoir to the press last week – has proceeded on vacation leave until August. Acting Registrar Lisa Phillips is performing his functions in what is shaping up to be a sensitive transition phase for the Commission.
There was speculation yesterday that Gordon may have met with the President yesterday afternoon, but this could not be independently confirmed.
The Law Association was yesterday due to issue a statement on the matter. However, up to press time, no statement was forthcoming. Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute Derek Murray said the body would likely meet today on the issue and declined further comment until deliberations by the body.
Political analyst and university lecturer Dr Hamid Ghany, in a CNC3 interview yesterday called for Gordon’s immediate resignation.
“I don’t think that public officials should be having private meetings at home given the character of the nature of the Integrity Commission,” Ghany said. “That is just not proper. The Integrity Commission is supposed to be the moral police of society.”
He queried whether any newly-appointed member could force Gordon off the commission by passing a motion to make him “recuse” himself, as per what occurred in the case of former deputy chairman Gladys Gafoor.
In last weekend’s Sunday Newsday, Ghany described the private meeting as a big error which compromised the Commission and the Office of the President.
Rowley also came under further criticism for implying in a media interview that he had disclosed his secret meeting with Gordon in Parliament.
“My contact with the chairman was never a secret,” Rowley was reported as saying last Saturday in a press report. “I told the Parliament that I had communicated with the Integrity Commission before I brought the matter to Parliament.”
A review of the unrevised Hansard of the both days when Rowley spoke in the motion of no-confidence motion reveals that Rowley did not disclose: 1) meeting with Gordon at his home; 2) meeting with Gordon at all; or 3) making “contact” with the Commission chairman in any form.
On May 20, Rowley mentioned the Integrity Commission, calling for it to probe the purported emails – which he had inquired of Gordon about days prior. While Rowley last week said he disclosed the meeting with Gordon, in fact he disclosed that he had done “checks” and ascertained that the entire Commission was not in place. (In fact, this fact was within the public domain since March 15 when the terms of three commissioners came to an end.) Rowley said, “I dare say, Mr Speaker, as I checked recently, there is no Integrity Commission in place.” He further said, “And I also call on the Integrity Commission to discharge its responsibility and oversee the conduct of public officers in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Three days later, in wrapping up debate, Rowley would mention the Integrity Commission a total of 17 times – quoting its powers extensively in an argument for a Commission, as opposed to a Police Service, probe. In none of those 17 instances did he disclose his meeting with Gordon.