Sunday, February 25, 2018

Ramlogan gives London ultimatum

'Provide Milshirv documents or face courts'

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has given Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Orville London one week to submit documents pertaining to the Milshirv project and the aquatic centre project to Minister of Finance Larry Howai.

Ramlogan told the Express yesterday that if London failed to do so he would take him to court under the Freedom of Information Act to compel him to release the documents.

The AG added if he was "forced" to issue legal proceedings against London, he (Ramlogan) would also be forced to consider whether to invite the court to order London to pay the legal costs personally as opposed to it coming out of the THA coffers.

Ramlogan said he was giving London one more week because he did not want it to be said that "we are hounding Mr London or acting in an aggressive manner against him".

"I am repeating the call to him through you (the media) to behave in a responsible and mature manner and disclose the documents or else face the consequences," the Attorney General stated.

Ramlogan said: "Mr London had publicly boasted that he had nothing to hide and that he was prepared to provide all documents concerning the MILSHIRV BOLT (build own lease transfer) transaction and the aquatic centre in Tobago. The documents since have been requested by the Integrity Commission and the Minister of Finance and he has since changed his tune and is yet to provide the requested information."

Ramlogan noted that information was necessary so that he as Attorney General could render proper legal advice to the Minister of Finance.

The AG said based on the documents that former head of the Public Service, Reginald Dumas, had written about and commented upon, it appeared that there was a prima facie case of a breach of the law (by the THA under London) and that he (London) may have acted illegally in negotiating this "clandestine" BOLT arrangement without the prior consent, knowledge and approval of the Minister of Finance.

Ramlogan said: "That Mr London in the face of this could hide or hold on to the relevant documents, instead of fulfilling his promise to make the documents available to the Government and public, can only fuel suspicion and speculation about his motives for so doing. What does he have to hide? Why the long delay?"

Ramlogan said if London did not provide the information requested within a reasonable time (that is one week) an application would be made under the Freedom of Information Act and a court order will be sought to compel him to disclose the documents.

"It is unfortunate that such a draconian measure will have to be taken against the THA Chief Secretary, when all we are asking for is information that can be laid bare for public scrutiny in the interest of transparency and accountability. A most serious question has been raised about the breach of the law and questions about misconduct in public office have been raised by persons outside of the political arena (Dumas). It is therefore incumbent upon Mr London to remember the oath he took upon assuming office and to understand these documents are not his personal property. They are public property and as such should be disclosed," the Attorney General said.

Last month Howai wrote to London, giving him seven days to submit the documents relating to the two projects. The letter was sent after the Attorney General had referred the issue to the Integrity Commission.

London has given the assurance that the documents would be submitted to the Integrity Commission but has pointed out that the Minister of Finance has no authority to instruct him to provide documents within a time frame.