Upon receiving a letter from The Commission of Enquiry into the Piarco Airport Development Project, dated June 25th, I immediately sent a reply to The Chairman of the Commission, Justice Mr. Clinton Bernard.
After receiving no reply from Mr. Bernard, I sent a Second Letter on July 22nd 2002(copy of first letter).Both letters were carbon copied to the President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.
I subsequently received from the Commission a letter dated August 15th 2002, which invited me to the proceedings of the Commission. I sent a reply to The Chairman, Mr. Bernard by letter dated August 19th 2002.Again this letter was carbon copied to The President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.
After receiving no further communication from The Commission, I wrote to The President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago on August 21st 2002.
Again after receiving no communication from either The President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago or The Commission, I again wrote to The Commission on August 27th 2002.
Last week I received from The President
of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago an acknowledgement of my letters.
I then sent to him a letter dated September 9th 2002.
For your information below are the
letters & the order in which they were sent to the Commission of Enquiry
into the Piarco Airport Development Project and the President.
July 22, 2002.
Mr. Justice Clinton Bernard
Commission of Enquiry into the Piarco Airport Development Project
3rd Floor, 24 –28 Richmond Street
PORT OF SPAIN.
I acknowledge receipt of a letter dated June 25, 2002, addressed to “Mr. Sadiq Baksh” purportedly signed by you on behalf of the other commissioners in which you stated inter alia, “In the light of the Terms of Reference of the Commission, the latter considers that you are a subject of this Enquiry.”
Subsequently, I subjected the said Terms of Reference to minute scrutiny, and a comprehensive review seeking to establish what in the Terms of Reference would lead to the conclusion that I am a subject of your Enquiry.
So far, I have found nothing that identifies me, as an individual, or that leads directly and inescapably to me, within the Terms of Reference. Consequently, I am at a total loss about how, and more importantly why, you and your fellow commissioners have arrived at such a deduction based on the Terms of Reference that you have incorporated within your letter and in the copy of the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette (dated April 30, 2002) that you have appended to your letter.
I would be happy to avail myself of the entitlements you have identified, and even the offer of legal assistance you have so kindly made, if you and your fellow commissioners can identify for my benefit exactly how (and where), in the light, context and content of the Terms of Reference of the Commission, you have determined that I, Sadiq Baksh, am a subject of this Enquiry. I am totally perplexed and completely at a loss as to how you have interpreted, or from my viewpoint, misinterpreted, the Terms of Reference to make me a subject of your Enquiry.
I would appreciate, and expect, further communication from you on this subject urgently, certainly before the start of your Enquiry.
In closing let me thank you for drawing this matter to my attention. I had, of course, like other members of the public, seen the Terms of Reference in the media but never connected them to me, personally or directly. Clearly, if you and your fellow commissioners can do so it means that members of the public, including the media, may already have reached the same conclusion, illogical though it might be. I also thank you for your kind offer of legal assistance. Pending your return correspondence, I might still consider availing myself of the opportunity. However, in the meantime, subject to your proving on the basis of the Terms of Reference, proof that they make me a subject of your Enquiry, I will not need such support.
Please be assured, however, of my fullest cooperation and best wishes. Like you, and the President of our Republic, I am deeply concerned that all matters affecting the Piarco Airport Development are ventilated. I support the President’s insistence on morality in public affairs, as do my Constituents in San Fernando West, who have twice elected me to Parliament on a platform that includes the pre-eminence of morality, ethics and service.
In this context, I would greatly appreciate (and on behalf of all my other colleagues who are Members of Parliament), that in future you respect my position as an elected Member of Parliament of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and address me as befitting my Office. Even a commission of enquiry must observe protocol and respect those people who are elected to, and not selected for, high office.
Again, I look forward to hearing
further from you on this matter.
c.c. President of the Republic of
Trinidad and Tobago
Mr. Justice Clinton Bernard.
Commission of Enquiry into the Piarco Airport Development Project.
3rd Floor, 24-28 Richmond Street,
PORT OF SPAIN.
August 19, 2002.
Dear Mr. Bernard,
Thank you for your letter dated August 15th 2002, which invites me to the proceedings of the Commission of Enquiry into The Piarco Airport Development Project. However, please be reminded of my letter of July 22nd 2002 which asked for an explanation as to how you and your fellow Commissioners, in the light, context and content of the Terms of Reference came the conclusion that I, Sadiq Baksh, am a subject to this Enquiry. I have not yet had the courtesy of a reply or even an acknowledgement.
Until I get your response I would be unable to determine whether I should attend and on what basis. I repeat my original position that the onus is on your Commission to explain what in the Terms of Reference makes me a party to the Enquiry.
I look forward to your timely response
on this matter.
c.c. President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
August 21st 2002.
President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,
The Honorable, Mr. A.N.R.Robiinson,
Dear President Robinson,
I have copied for your information two letters that I have sent to the Commission of Enquiry into the Piarco Airport Development Project and copied to your Office.
I have neither received an acknowledgment of my letters or an answer to the issue that I raised.
Since the Commission has been established by, and operates under the protection of, your Office, I have no other recourse but to write to you expressing my concerns. Clearly, if the Commission is accountable to the Office of the President it should function in a manner consistent with what is the highest office in our nation? The Commission should also be bound by the Terms of Reference under which it was established by your office, and should not overstep either its legal or moral authority. One such moral concern is its responsibility to provide explanations for its conduct, especially when it defies the presumption of innocence that is the basis of natural justice and our constitution. As it is, the Commission, by including me as an individual within its ambit, by unilaterally widening its Terms of Reference, and by refusing to answer my legitimate question about its actions, has gone beyond the boundaries of its constitutional and moral authority. It is now in deep political waters which, if left unchecked, could easily drown our fragile nationhood and submerge all the institutions of democracy that we hold dear. In many ways, this is as bad as the attempted coup in 1990 and if allowed to succeed would be even more disastrous.
I, therefore, humbly ask that your Office as the parent of this creature that is seeking to function in a manner that is as illegitimate as it is reckless, restrain its blind persecution of citizens and rethink its existence.
I also believe that as a Member of Parliament, elected by the citizens of this country, I deserve the same respect that I have shown to the Commission and to your Office. I ask this, not for my sake, but again for the democracy for which you were willing to give your life and to which I have devoted my own life.
August 27, 2002.
The Honorable Justice Clinton Bernard,
Commission of Enquiry into the Piarco Airport Development Project.
3rd Floor, 24-28 Richmond Street,
PORT OF SPAIN.
I am deeply concerned that you have chosen to ignore the issue that I raised in correspondence to your Commission regarding what exactly made me, or makes me, a subject to the Enquiry.
It is my understanding that if you have evidence or accusations against me that I would be so informed and would have access to, and copies of, whatever documentation exists before the start of the Commission. I have not been so informed or so served. In fact, the Commission has not provided me with the courtesy of even acknowledging my letter. Fortunately, the Office of the President has received copies and would clearly support that I have indeed raised the issue with your Commission.
What is extremely interesting is your clear demonstration of "selectivity" in the way you have excerpted from the correspondence that I sent you, one paragraph which you sought to use to put me in a bad light. You made it seem to the public that I was concerned primarily with the respect that should be shown to my office. Clearly, and anyone reading the letter impartially would recognize, I am concerned about the respect that should be shown to all democratic institutions in this country. I was elected to Office by the people of this country. You and your commission were selected on the basis of the laws which we in Parliament make and uphold. By disrespecting my office you have brought yours into disrepute.
This is compounded by the fact that you did not make public mention of my concern although you quoted from my letter. For a person of your stature and your training to ignore the purport of my letter, the act will be seen as deliberate and not accidental.
I repeat for whatever purpose you may wish to use it that I have drawn to your attention an issue for which I expect an answer from your Commission. I have now drawn another, albeit that it might be too late. If there is any accusation in writing against me, it must be drawn to my attention and copies provided before the Commission first sits, and I must be present from the start of the Commission. In addition, if you seek to subpoena me, I would be within my constitutional rights and cannot be incriminated, if I choose to refrain from answering any or all questions put to me. This is my understanding of the process of Commissions of Enquiry. If yours is different or if I have erred in any way in my interpretation of the law, I would appreciate your correction on the basis that I respect your standing both as an individual and former Chief Justice, and your authority as Chairman of the Commission of Enquiry. Unfortunately, you have not shown me the same respect.
I look forward to hearing from you
and your Commission of Enquiry.
c.c. The President of the Republic
of Trinidad and Tobago
September 9, 2002.
The President of the Republic of
Trinidad and Tobago,
The Honorable A.N. R. Robinson,
Dear Mr. Robinson,
I wrote to you recently to convey my concern about the modus operandi of the Commission of Enquiry into the Airport. I pointed out that there was a clear case of bias against me by the Chairman. In his opening statement, he did not mention the substantive issue I had raised regarding what in the Terms of Reference of the Committee made me a “party” to the Enquiry. Instead, Mr. Clinton Bernard chose to give the impression that I was concerned solely with his disregard for my status as a Member of Parliament.
Subsequently, Mr. Bernard has dragged your Office into his Enquiry by claiming any attempt to seek clarification, or to avoid the circus-like atmosphere he has created, is an “insult to the President.”
It is on this basis, the clear public recognition that you are responsible for the appointment of the Commission, that I write this second letter to you on the issue of the Commission, pleading to you to protect your integrity and reputation, and that of the Office that you hold and have administered faithfully over the past few years. More, as a member of the International Court of Justice, a position that you deserve and to which you add dignity, you cannot disregard the sins that are being committed in your name and under your jurisdiction.
I had hoped that you would have responded to the legal concerns that I raised. However, I am sure that you are, even now, considering the merit of my position. On that basis, and with the greatest respect for you and your office, I wish to support the case that I made for a review of the operations of the Commission. Specifically, I draw to your attention a summary of some of the conclusion and recommendations of the Royal Commission on Tribunals of Inquiry 1966 under the Chairmanship of The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Salmon.
Among the recommendations are the
cardinal principles that should be observed. These include the cardinal
Before any person who is involved in an inquiry is called as a witness, he should be informed in advance of allegations against him and the substance of the evidence in support of them.
Additionally the Salmon Commission
Before giving his evidence in public, a witness should be supplied with a document setting out the allegations against him, and the substance of the evidence in support of those allegations.
I am absolutely certain that you are aware of the report of the Salmon Commission and have given it due consideration. However, it is also very clear that these recommendations, and the principles of natural law, justice and respect for human rights on which they are based, are being ignored both in spirit and substance by the Commission.
It is possible that Mr. Bernard is being driving by his enthusiasm and emotion, and not by his intellect and knowledge of the law. However, his behaviour and biased public utterances can negate the findings of the Commission and bring your well-deserved reputation and that of the Office of the President into disrepute.
On this basis, I am again renewing
my humble request for your intervention in the matter and the need for
you to clarify, for the Commission’s benefits, both the Terms of Reference
which you have given them, as well as the spirit of the laws of Trinidad
and Tobago, which you represent and uphold.