February 9, 2007
Ottley Hall must have positive consequences


It is with huge sigh of relief that most Vincentians would have welcomed the resumption of the Ottley Hall Inquiry. After all it has dragged along over a two-year period with frequent interruptions for one reason or another, the latest being a series of legal wranglings that wound their way right up the Privy Council for a decision.

There is likely to be further procrastination as lawyers for those summoned to give evidence seek maximum space in defence of their clients. For most of us though, a speedy conclusion is what we would wish most, but the constitutional and legal rights of all must be respected.{{more}}

Concerns have already been raised in public about the cost of the Inquiry to the taxpayer. It is a genuine concern that all involved, Commissioner, legal counsels, witnesses, secretariat must bear in mind and while not compromising the rights of those called to give evidence, must nevertheless behave responsibly in the exercise of those rights.

Prime Minister Gonsalves has, in defence of the holding of the Inquiry, pointed to one significant benefit in that, according to him, the conduct of the investigation has assisted greatly in the massive debt relief that he was able to achieve.

But there is more. For some of us the value of the Inquiry lies in the salivating details that have been emerging about the transactions in the Ottley Hall deal. For others, on one side of the political fence or the other, the Inquiry is but a political football either being used to bring corrupt persons to justice or to persecute persons perceived as having acted in the best public interests.

Those views aside though, there are two especially important consequences which should flow from the Inquiry. First, there is the aspect of ensuring that those who have assisted in defrauding the Vincentian public are made to account for their misdeeds. Where evidence points to corruption and wrongdoings, those persons must be changed accordingly and feel the full weight of the law, just as others who commit felonies and are caught are made to appear before the Courts. It is the minimum that one can expect.

Secondly, it will make no sense to go through such elaborate investigation and then do nothing to make it difficult for such a massive heist to occur again. If nothing else, the Ottley Hall Inquiry must lead us to ensure that there is legislation governing integrity in public life, accountability of those in the public trust and transparency in public transactions. It cannot suffice to say who is wrong in the affair, we must make sure that the stable door is securely locked and so minimize such dealings in the future.