Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Flight to Florida

Senate president admits sending Constitution e-mail, but says recusal does not arise—booked to travel August 20 to 28


Timothy Hamel-Smith

Mark Fraser

Senate president Timothy Hamel-Smith will be flying to Florida, USA, today and will therefore not preside over the controversial Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 debate in the Senate scheduled for Tuesday.

In a statement yesterday, Hamel-Smith admitted he did send an e-mail which advised the bill be sent to a Joint Select Committee (JSC).

Former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas disclosed to the Express on August

14 that he received in his mailbox an e-mail from Hamel-Smith which was sent to certain persons (not Dumas), dated Sunday, August 10, 2014, and which stated:

“I am writing to request your endorsement of the Constitution Amendment Bill to be referred to a Joint Select Committee of Par­liament. This would allow for all stakeholders to make representations and the bill to be debated in, say, late September. Such a delay will not negatively impact the Government but rather allow it to get a broader cross-section of support and take into account other views that might indeed improve the bill. I urge you and [organisation] to announce this to the media as a matter of urgency.”

Dumas called for Hamel-Smith to recuse himself from presiding over the debate on the bill as it would be improper for him to so do, having already taken a position on the bill.

On August 18, leader of Government business in the Senate Ganga Singh and leader of Government business in the House of Representatives Dr Roodal Moonilal met with Hamel-Smith to discuss the issue.

In his statement yesterday, Hamel-Smith indicated he would

have considered recusing him­self from the debate had he not had travel plans.

“Having regard to the view advocated by me, with regard to the referral of the bill to a Joint Select Committee, some individuals have taken the view that I should recuse myself from presiding on the debate of the bill, despite the fact that I have not expressed any view as to the merits or demerits of the bill,” he said.

He said he had given serious consideration to the question of recusal but the issue does not arise as “prior to the fixing of August 26th date for the debate on this bill, “I had already made arrangements to travel to Florida on 20th August, 2014, and will not be returning to Trinidad until 28th August, 2014”.

Contacted last night, Dumas told the Express he was relieved Hamel-Smith would not be presiding over the debate.

“In my own view, we now know for a fact, from his own pen, that he sent the e-mail. In the circumstance, I consider it improper for him to preside but he’s not going to preside anyway as he’s made arrangements to be out of the country and I wish him an enjoyable stay,” said Dumas.

Dumas noted Hamel-Smith indicated he did not express any views on the merits or demerits of the bill but said:

“He should not make any comment at all on the bill, whe­-

ther that comment has to do with

the procedural or the substantive aspect of the bill, he should not express any view at all.”

Dumas said he was glad Hamel-Smith finally admitted it was he who sent the e-mail after “days of evasion”.

“I am talking about good governance, so I’m relieved that he will not be presiding,” he said.

Dumas further noted Hamel-Smith indicated he was not subject to any party whip, saying the Senate president should not participate in any party proceedings but should not even be a member of a political party.

Dumas said the Senate president should have resigned from the political party to which he belongs.

He also took note of a blog, which circulated over the weekend, which detailed how an e-mail can be forged and insinuated he (Dumas) concocted the e-mail in question.

“I hope the person who sent that e-mail around last Saturday which suggested in part that I might be the forger would now have the courtesy to apologise,” said Dumas.