The Government, through Communications Minister Vasant Bharath said comments made by Deputy Chairman of the Integrity Commission, Sebastian Ventour are very puzzling.
Mr Ventour, in an interview with the Express made some very revealing statements regarding his resignation from the Commission. First of all, Mr Ventour, describes the decision making process through which the Integrity Commission deliberates “we don’t all have to agree to come to a decision, very often we come to a disagreement but once there is a majority…. There are five members of the Commission, three is a quorum”. He confesses that there are times when they will not always agree but once there’s a majority, a decision can be made. So that is the first significant point.
Mr. Ventour must have been aware then that notwithstanding his own individual views on any matter being deliberated by the Commission, the greater majority or prevailing view of the Commission members would determine the outcome.
He admits to leaving the discussion because in his view he didn’t like where it was going. So it would appear that Mr. Ventour chose to leave a discussion between members of the Commission on an extremely important matter and then shockingly expressed surprise when he learns that a decision was taken after he abandoned the meeting. Shocking in itself. He said he was “flabbergasted” that the Commission took this decision. I dare say the other members of the Commission must have been flabbergasted themselves when he walked out and deeply disappointed in him with his public outbursts after he didn’t get his way and chose to resign.
Question is, why did Mr Ventour feel his personal opinion ought to be greater than that of the weight of the quorum expressed by the Commission? Is it that he believes his singular view is greater than the Commission’s legally binding decision making process?
Is Mr Ventour suggesting that in light of his dissenting voice or that of the minority, that his view should prevail above the quorum, as agreed to by all who signed on to serve?
Judicial conduct requires that those holding such office refrain from bringing institutions or other officers into disrepute.
Proper procedures for recording dissent or disagreement exist and they never involve public statements. A judge of the Court of Appeal for example can record a dissenting judgment but maintains the dignity of the Court and fellow judges.
The IC Commissioner has intimate knowledge of judicial propriety and should have availed himself of any number of options:
1. Communication with the Chairman seeking clarification
2. Communication with the Registrar seeking clarification
3. Communication with the other members of the IC
4. Committing in writing to the Chairman and President his position.
The answers are clear. The Integrity Commission and not Mr Ventour terminated the investigation into Emailgate. The members would have weighed all matters and measured all evidence in arriving at the decision to discontinue the investigation. Mr Ventour disagreed and resigned. I would have expected as a former member of the judiciary he might be expected to understand the whole process of collective deliberations and decisions arrived at through a quorum as done by any jury in matters over which he would have himself presided at one time or another when he served on the bench.
The behavior of Mr Ventour when he didn’t get his way and his public pronouncements after abandoning the proceedings perhaps says more about his unsuitability for the post than it does to any views he might wish to now express.
What would have been a travesty of justice though, is if the majority of the members of the Commission had disregarded the process and bowed to Mr Ventour’s individual opinion and demands. We would all indeed have been “flabbergasted.”
Ministry of Communication