Sunday, December 17, 2017

Govt ‘transparent’, says Tewarie

Invader’s Bay impasse



Mark Fraser

At every stage of the development of the Invader’s Bay project Government has been “transparent, followed transparent procedures and sound legal advice”, Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie said yesterday.

In a statement from his ministry, Tewarie said: “The issue of Invader’s Bay has been in the public domain for some time now and is now the subject of legal process having to do with freedom of information.

Perhaps the time has come to put all facts related to Invader’s Bay back in the public domain. Today however I simply address the issue at hand having to do with the court decision on the freedom of information matter.”

He was responding to High Court judge Frank Seepersad’s 28-page judgment on Monday which saw the Joint Consultative Council winning the right to see legal advice in relation to the tendering process for the $5.5 billion Invader’s Bay project.

“At the heart of the Invader’s Bay matter is the economic issue of diversification which this Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration is absolutely committed to as part of Government’s vision for our country. Debate on such issues is always healthy but we ought to proceed on the basis of facts,” Tewarie said.

“The matter being addressed by the Court and subject to legal process arose out of a JCC application under the Freedom of Information Act to have legal advice offered by Queen’s Counsel, Sir Fenton Ramsahoye made public. So the matter subject to legal process is a freedom of information issue.”

The minister’s statement said: “The legal advice to Government on the Freedom of Information Act application by JCC was that making public the legal advice between counsel and client would have undermined a principle by which the judicial system has operated for decades and would have created a precedent that could have far reaching consequences on the basis of such legal advice. Therefore, the request for the public exposure of the legal advice of Sir Fenton Ramsahoye was turned down. It is on the basis of this decision that we have arrived at this point today.”

The Government operated on the position that the legal advice between counsel and client is privileged and is protected by centuries of legal tradition and common law and that this ought not to be compromised because of the far reaching implications of the precedent it would    set, he added.

“At every stage of the development of the Invader’s Bay project the Government has been transparent, followed transparent procedures and sound legal advice.

So the impasse that we have arrived at today has nothing to do with transparency or legality of the Invader’s Bay project, or the validity of the Invader’s Bay project to further our objective of economic diversification. 

In fact the impasse must be understood in the context of a JCC request for confidential legal opinion which is protected by attorney/client privilege that we have argued, ought not to be forced out into the public domain,” the statement said.