THE SPOKESPERSON for the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) said yesterday that lawyers for the organisation are reviewing the reasons given by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) not to prosecute anyone in the Citadel radio licence case, to see whether it can be challenged in court.
SDMS secretary general Satnarayn Maharaj, in a telephone interview, said: "We have asked our attorneys to look at the findings of the DPP to see whether we have a case for judicial review. We are not happy with some of the things we read in the newspaper."
Maharaj singled out two factors the DPP took into account to not prosecute former prime minister Patrick Manning on a charge of misbehaviour in public office – the age of the matter and Manning's ill-health.
"In my view, that kind of judgment has to come from a judge. If a judge is passing sentence, they will take into account the age of the matter and the health of the accused person," Maharaj said.
Last Friday, DPP Roger Gaspard SC wrote the Integrity Commission, the body which had referred the Citadel case to him, that with regard to a recommendation for a criminal investigation against Manning and former government minister Hedwidge Bereaux there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone with a criminal offence nor was it in the public interest to so do.
"It is an established fact in the public domain that Mr Manning has recently suffered two strokes, having had heart surgery and now lives with a pace maker. He has been absent from Parliament for over 13 months. If a suspect is suffering from significant ill-health this is a factor that could influence whether a prosecution should proceed, especially if the offence is not likely to be repeated. In the instant matter, there is not a complaint nor is there any suggestion or evidence that it was," Gaspard stated.
"Although Mr Bereaux might not be similarly circumstanced since he was not the head of Cabinet, it can be said that he performed a subsidiary role in the entire transaction. As such if it decided not to proceed against Mr Manning then it would be impractical and evidentially difficult to proceed against Mr Bereaux," he added.
It was on the basis of a July 12, 2006 complaint filed by SDMS, relating to the speedy award of a radio licence to Louis Lee Sing, then owner of Citadel Ltd – now owned by One Caribbean Media (the holding company of Trinidad Express Newspapers Ltd) – and the failure of the State to treat with similar application by the SDMS fairly, that the Commission launched its investigation.
The SDMS had also initiated civil proceedings against the State and the Privy Council in London ruled that the organisation was a victim of discrimination.
A radio licence was subsequently granted to the SDMS, which operates Radio Jaagriti.
Among the witnesses interviewed during the probe were Manning, then minister of science, technology and tertiary education Bereaux, Lee Sing, then government minister Jerry Narace, then secretary to Cabinet Andrea Woo-Gabriel, then Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal, then permanent secretary Emmanuel George and then deputy director of the Telecommunications Division, Mala Guinness.