Sunday, January 21, 2018

Commissioner misses hearing 'to deal with accusations'

Commissioner Dr Hafizool Mohammed, whose academic credentials are being questioned, absented himself from yesterday's hearing of the commission of enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt.

At the start of the session, chairman Sir David Simmons said Mohammed asked to be excused "in order to consult legal advice and to take such other action as he may be advised in respect of certain allegations against him of a very serious nature".

Sir David said the time would come when Mohammed has to give his side of the story and respond to the allegations which have been made against him in two separate Guardian newspaper articles.

"I think it is but fair that he be given the opportunity to prepare such response with legal counsel," he said. Simmons said for yesterday and possibly today Mohammed would be excused from sitting on the enquiry.

The enquiry, which is being heard at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry Street, Port of Spain, has five commissioners—Simmons, Mohammed, Richard Cheltenham, QC, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt and Eastlyn McKenzie.

In a statement yesterday, attorney Martin George said he had been consulting and advising his client, Mohammed, since Tuesday night and due to those meetings Mohammed was unable to attend yesterday's sitting.

George stated those meetings were necessary for Mohammed "to be able to adequately respond to the allegations regarding his qualifications, which have surfaced in the media".

"We are looking at, among other things, the governing legislation which regulates commissions of enquiry, their establishment and their conduct of proceedings.

"We are also looking at the terms of reference of the commission itself and the instruments of appointment given to this commissioner. We are hoping to have a substantial and comprehensive response on these matters by Friday," the statement added.

At the enquiry yesterday, Simmons said he was yet to hear from the Fire Service and the Customs Department on what they did and what they knew about the events of July 1990.

He said the commission had been very patient with these departments.

Lead attorney Avory Sinanan, SC, said the matter was still being actively pursued.

He said the Fire Service may be prepared to give evidence more with a focus of giving recommendations for future action in any similar eventuality.