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A challenge of integrity
As the latest controversy involving the Integrity Commission takes the Commission itself to a new low, it is apparent that the body has lost its moral authority to be the moral police of the society. What was a dispute between the Chairman, Ken Gordon, and the Deputy Chairman, Gladys Gafoor, about whether or not the latter should recuse herself from a two-year-old matter that suddenly became controversial after the appointment of a new chairman, has now been converted into a question about the conduct of the deputy chairman from the date of her re-appointment on March 15, 2010.
How did the conduct of the deputy chairman from the date of her re-appointment in March 2010 become an issue in the midst of the recusal firestorm? Such a matter will obviously involve the former Chairman, Dr Eric St Cyr, in this matter as he was the chairman until October 2011 as well as the current chairman, Ken Gordon. One wonders whether the pre-action protocol letter served on the Integrity Commission by the deputy chairman in mid-January has now been circumvented by her suspension and the appointment of a tribunal to investigate her conduct.
All of this has the potential to destroy the reputation of the deputy chairman and is really tantamount to impeachment proceedings against her. However, it appears that the source of these proceedings is the receipt of “complaints made by Members of the Integrity Commission that Mrs Gladys Gafoor, appointed member and deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission on March 15, 2010 has, from or after that date through January 2012 and continuing, engaged in conduct….” according to section 1 of the Notice published in the official Gazette on February 9, 2012.
Who are the commissioners who wrote complaints to the President about the deputy chairman and what did they say? Was Dr Eric St Cyr one of the people who wrote complaints to the President seeing that he was the chairman from March 15, 2010 to October 12, 2011? Did Ken Gordon write a letter of complaint against the deputy chairman during his short tenure as chairman since November 1, 2011?
It appears that the deputy chairman may have to pay a heavy price for standing up for her rights by having her name and her career dragged through the mud on charges of misconduct, while the fundamental issue of whether members of a Commission can take a majority decision to recuse another member of the same Commission against their will on a specific matter remains unresolved. How did we get here? How did the Integrity Commission find itself becoming the butt of public jokes about its own inability to observe the standards that it would like to impose on the society?
The reality is that we have a society that thrives on bacchanal and confusion and that has to be juxtaposed against the serious business of receiving confidential information about people’s personal lives and retaining the secrecy of such submissions. Some of those submissions may have to be reviewed against allegations of impropriety. Are we capable of raising ourselves to the standard required for that or are we to view the concept of the Integrity Commission as a lofty ideal that is really unattainable in this society? No other commission has had as many problems as the Integrity Commission in both the courts of law and the court of public opinion. The problems with this Commission also reach to the level of the Office of the President.
The scandal of the collapse of the Integrity Commission in May 2009 can only be placed at the doorstep of the Office of the President and nowhere else. He apologised for that, but took no responsibility for it. Out of all of those Commissioners whom he appointed in May 2009, he retained confidence in Mrs Gladys Gafoor and re-appointed her in March 2010. While some did not wish to be re-appointed, others were disregarded by the President for re-appointment.
Is this tribunal that has been established to investigate the Deputy Chairman an admission of another failure by the President in relation to the Integrity Commission? The charges that have been laid against Mrs Gafoor go right back to the date of her re-appointment by the President. Was there a conflict of recusal between Dr St Cyr and Mrs Gafoor or did it only arise between Ken Gordon and Mrs Gafoor on a single issue?
It appears that that issue is the matter involving former Attorney General John Jeremie and the complaint filed against him by the late Desmond Allum regarding matters to do with the re-purchase of lands by a C L Financial subsidiary from former Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicholls. What is likely to be revealed at the tribunal may be damaging to the Office of the President itself, not to mention the Integrity Commission. Hopefully freedom of the press to report on this will be maintained and that the attack on the Newsday and its reporters will not be repeated anywhere else.
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