Commission peeved by imam’s failure to show up
Yasin Abu Bakr yesterday ignored the subpoena to appear before the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt. And to add insult to injury, his attorney, Wayne Sturge, also failed to appear to state why his client was not present.
Bakr, the man who led the 1990 coup attempt, is a critical witness. But it was Sturge’s non-appearance which drew the harshest censure from Commission chairman Sir David Simmons SC, who accused Sturge of treating the Commission with “the greatest disrespect and contempt historically”, and lead counsel to the Commission Avory Sinanan SC, who accused Sturge of treating the Commission with “a little sleight of hand”.
Accordingly, Sturge has been given 48 hours to appear before the Commission to explain both his absence and Bakr’s. Failure would result in the invocation of the powers of sanction.
At yesterday’s sitting, attorney Hasine Shaikh announced she was “holding” for Sturge, whose absence she apologised for. But then went on to say that she “was not in a position to ascertain exactly where (he) Sturge is this morning”.
To this, Simmons stated: “So how are you holding for somebody, whose position you are not fully conversant with? So you’re really not holding for Mr Sturge. When you hold for another counsel, it means you have the full instructions of that counsel.”
Shaikh said she was so guided. She said Bakr was advised to be present to answer the summons (subpoena).
“Up to last night we were told that he would be present. I am unable to say why he is not here. It was our understanding that he would be present to answer the summons despite the correspondence that had been sent to the Commission,” Shaikh stated.
(The correspondence was a letter from Sturge, dated August 29, indicating that Bakr would be unable to give evidence “unless and until there is a final resolution” of a sedition trial).
“We cannot offer any reasonable explanation as to why he (Bakr) is not here. We explained to him the summons and the need to obey it and he understood that. However, as to physically bringing him before the Commission, we could not do any further”.
“Have you been in touch with Mr Bakr this morning?” Simmons inquired.
“No, I could not reach him,” Shaikh stated.
“So you have no instructions as to his physical or other state?” Simmons asked.
“No,” was the reply.
“And you have nothing from Mr Sturge. In fact you are most unhelpful to the Commission. You know nothing about your client or the counsel for whom you work” Simmons stated, adding his thanks to Shaikh for coming.
Sinanan said, referring to Bakr and Sturge’s absence, that Sturge should have seen it important enough for him to be present.
“I really do think he is treating the Commission ... with a little bit of sleight of hand. I don’t think this is a matter the Commission should tolerate,” he said.
Sinanan suggested that a strongly-worded letter be sent to Sturge and he be invited to appear within the next 24 hours with some position or instruction with respect to his client. Sinanan reminded the chairman that any person who refuses without sufficient cause to attend at the time and place mentioned in the summons served on him commits an offence. The penalty is $2,000.
Sinanan said at this time there was no cause given for Bakr’s absence. He recommended, however, that the chairman defer exercising his authority under Section 12 of the CoE Act and to give a final opportunity to Bakr and his counsel to explain their absence. He added that Sturge (when he appears ) may be able to give a proper cause for both their absences—himself and Bakr’s.
Simmons, however, said the Commission would give Sturge 48 hours to appear. Simmons said the Commission had given “extensive indulgence” to Bakr to allow him to have his trial without seeking testimony.