Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ex-judge: No big deal

Ventour back on Integrity Commission

 Newly reappointed commissioner and deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission, Justice Sebastian Ventour, yesterday called on the media to focus on the more pressing problems facing the country and not on his abrupt and eyebrow-raising temporary departure from the Integrity Commission.

Ventour told reporters the commission can get back to the important issues that were held in abeyance with his departure.

Ventour had resigned from the commission on February 5 to be appointed a puisne judge on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission to deliver three outstanding judgments. At a short ceremony at the President’s office yesterday, he was reappointed a commissioner by President Anthony Carmona.

In a statement read at the ceremony by the president’s aide-de-camp, Don Polo, the President’s office indicated the reappointment of Ventour came after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Asked yesterday whether he was performing a judicial function (because he would have been deliberating and contemplating the judgments) while still serving on the commission (prior to his resignation), Ventour skirted this question, saying: “Listen ladies and gentlemen, I think you should redirect the cameras. There are so many ills affecting Trinidad and Tobago at this point in time, you got to refocus. I am going back to the Integrity Commission at this time to continue a job I started and I hope your prayers are with me. No further comment”. 

The president also declined to answer questions saying he has never conducted interviews at his office.

Earlier at the ceremony, the President office, speaking through the president’s aide-de-camp, stated the practice of reappointing a judge who has retired and is active in other endeavours to facilitate the delivery of outstanding judgments was not without precedent in Trinidad and Tobago and was generally done in alignment with the public interest so that closure can be brought to outstanding matters in the courts.

“However, accordance with Section 4 (5) of the Integrity in Public Life Act, ... which states: “A person shall not be qualified to hold office as a member of the commission where he is a person in public life or a person exercising a public function”, Mr Justice Ventour was, from the moment of his swearing-in as a puisne judge, thus disqualified from exercising his functions in the Integrity Commission. He proactively tendered his resignation from the commission with effect from February 5 to facilitate his reappointment to the Judiciary for that one day,” Polo stated.

At that time both Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley had expressed concerns. 

Ramlogan had stated he was “shocked and disappointed” particularly because of the checkered history of the Integrity Commission.  

Rowley expressed disappointment at the lack of openness, clarity and advanced notice. He said the public should have been kept in the loop. 

The reappointment of Ventour means that the commission—which under the law must have an attorney in its membership—is once more properly constituted and has a quorum to conduct its business. 

The commission has several important matters under investigation, most prominent among them are the investigations into Emailgate and former minister and current MP for Chaguanas West, Jack Warner.

—Ria Taitt