This Season is one of reflection and re-dedication for me, with the two-month transition from Emancipation Day on 1 August to Independence on the 31 August, then onto Republic Day on 24 September. I always spend this spell in some sober reflection, in between the life. It seems to me that the very sequence of events and the consequent holidays in the season imbue it with an inner meaning in terms of a national transition to some kind of depth and purpose. Emancipation to Independence to Republican status…this is my Season of Reflection, maybe that is just sentimental of me, but let us see.
The most recent of my articles on ‘filling the gaps‘ in the CL Financial bailout were almost entirely devoted to publishing my exchanges with the Ministry of Finance. At the start of my Season of Reflection, it is time I go beyond reposting the items – the Thing – to essay on the Meaning of the Thing.
On 22nd July 2015, the High Court ordered the publication of the CL Financial bailout details I had requested from the Finance Ministry under the Freedom of Information Act. The Ministry appealed and that appeal was compromised (ended) when a Consent Order was entered at the Appeal Court hearing on 24th January 2018.
Only part of that information which was ordered published has been provided by the Ministry – the details of the EFPA payees. We have put the Ministry’s lapses onto the record in detail and the Ministry has replied to claim that there is no further information.
After the Appeal Court entered that Consent Order in January 2018, I also requested further bailout details from the Ministry and there has only been partial success there. The Ministry’s position seems to be that significant files cannot be located (including, it seems, most of the CLF accounts) and they need to get further legal/other advice, as reported last week. They have also taken a fresh look at the situation and resiled from the earlier position in which the details of the EFPA payees were offered as requested and provided.
I will be taking action to resolve both these issues and this is now time to delve into the meaning of these new stances.
Form of Information
One of the aspects which is being used to obscure the issue is that of form.
The most striking part of the form issue is the pretence that the physical location of certain files matters or the unknown location or the claim to be unable to locate. It seems that ‘we can’t find the file‘ is now the excuse of choice. That is simply untenable and if this were not such a serious matter, it would be sheer comedy.
Every single set of accounts, summary, list of creditors and possible detail is the subject of considerable email traffic before those are finalised. That is just today’s world and how we deal. So the notion that the Ministry can assert that a particular file cannot be located as the end of an enquiry or somehow negating my right to those details, as ordered by the Court, is rickety and somehow very tragic. In fact, the Ministry’s stance is quite ironic since the EFPA details they provided in compliance with the Consent Order were sent in CD form. The Ministry had those details stored in soft-copy on an Excel database which they sent to me, so they were accustomed to that method of storage, retrieval and sharing. All of which only makes this current stance seem peculiar, to my mind anyway.
A secondary issue, as per the previous article, is that PS Dhanpaul attempted to direct me as to what was the acceptable form of future communications with him. PS Dhanpaul claimed that only hard-copy letters from me would be acknowledged or treated as received. I refused his directions and ended by noting that all his letters were hand-delivered to my office, even though those were addressed to my home.
Despite the contents, I smiled when receiving PS Dhanpaul’s reply of 31st July 2018 at my home, since it means he does read his email and respond accordingly. Simply sublime.
The emerging imbroglio from the Ministry can be analysed as –
2012/2013 requests for the CLF accounts
At that point, the Ministry could have claimed to have no accounts at all for CLF, which would have entirely extinguished my claims, since the applicant cannot obtain an item which simply does not exist. But that would have raised awkward issues about the basis of Winston Dookeran’s affidavit of 3rd April 2012, you see? In any case, the Ministry objected to releasing those details to me, which could only mean that the CLF accounts were in their possession when I applied. Those objections sparked the recently-concluded litigation.
So, if the requested accounts were with the Finance Ministry in 2012/2013, where are they now? It is unacceptable for the Ministry to tell us now that the file cannot be found. We are being asked to accept that the accounts for CLF vanished from the Finance Ministry over the last six years. Well I tell you.
Apart from interrogating the 2013 position, the Ministry offered those said accounts in the course of settling the Consent Order in January 2018. So how can that same Ministry now claim to be unable to find those same accounts?
I try to avoid cynicism in these efforts, but it does all resemble a kind of high-level ‘bait-and-switch’ game to shut down the litigation. That is my view.
Finally, for those who might be seeking comfort in explanations of a change of political administration and so on, please note that from the outset the Ministry was advised by eminent Senior Counsel, Russell Martineau, who has served as both AG and Law Association President.