Ottley Hall Enquiry put on ice again
September 14, 2007

Ottley Hall Enquiry put on ice again

A ruling expected from the High Court today will put yet another halt to the Ottley Hall Commission of Enquiry saga.

The epic in the making had another twist on Friday, September 7, when High Court Judge Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle ordered that the enquiry be stayed until further order, while he reviewed a request made by the lawyer of former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell.{{more}}

The judge deferred his findings to today, Friday, September 14.

A short press conference called by the lawyer for Sir James, Lawrence Maharaj, at the French Verandah in Villa, last Friday, indicated that it was their contention that Sir James’ rights were violated when Parliament repealed the law entitling persons who are involved in a commission of enquiry to have their legal expenses paid by the Government.

According to Maharaj, this law was repealed and a new law put in place in 24 hours.

“The Government wanted Sir James Mitchell to give evidence. Sir James Mitchell decided that he is prepared to give evidence, and we advised him that his rights and reputation were violated, and in the process, so, too, are the rights of every citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Maharaj said that the entire enquiry could be investigated and possibly disbanded, if the judge rules in favour of the former Prime Minister today.

“If a Prime Minister of St. Vincent and his government can use his majority in Parliament to take away the rights of a former Prime Minister, then that is a serious precedent. He can then take away the right of farmers, vendors, land owners, and I can go on… So I want to pay tribute to Sir James today for standing up for the people of St. Vincent and the Caribbean.”

Maharaj, who represented former Commissioner of Police Randolph Toussaint in a matter against the present Government, is currently representing the Prime Minister of Grenada in a Commission of Enquiry.

He said he intends to stand up against any prime minister or government which is prepared to trample on the rights of a people.

He said that he and Sir James are prepared to appeal the matter, if the judge’s ruling is against them, and they are willing to go to the Privy Council, if necessary.

Maharaj stated that they have already made arrangements in advance to appeal a decision against them.

If the judge agrees with them, Maharaj said that both Council for the Commission Anthony Astaphan and the Attorney General would have questions to answer in a full hearing.

Either way, the Commission of Enquiry will be put on pause.

The Commission of Enquiry was halted for a year and a half in 2005, while key witnesses Glenford Stewart and Richard Joachim argued how the Commission was constituted at the Privy Council.

Today’s decision by Justice Bruce-Lyle will definitely put a halt to the proceedings once again, until the law takes its course, and it is uncertain as to how long it will be before the Enquiry resumes.