The last month or so has spoilt us for choice when it comes to amazing scenes being witnessed in relation to the CL Financial bailout and the ongoing Colman Commission.
As I wrote in July 2010, in criticising the appointment of Jack Warner to the Cabinet –
“…We need to be mindful of the relationship between morals, ethics, law and of course, that scarce commodity, good sense. Obviously, law is the paramount authority, because we live in a republic ruled by laws, not men. No one should break the law and there are penalties for doing that. But we also know that in life we make many important decisions without referring to any laws. Those are sound decisions, which form norms, eventually described as custom-and-practice or culture. There are many acts, which are at one and the same time both deeply offensive to right-thinking people (and I think that most people are right-thinking) and in breach of no particular law. Many acts, with no need for examples, since this is a newspaper any child could pick up and read…”
The main talking point was the decision of the Law Association President, Seenath Jairam SC, to accept the Ministry of Finance brief for the Colman Commission after the dismissal of Michael Quamina and Fyard Hosein SC. Apart from our friendship, Seenath Jairam is an attorney in whom I have utmost confidence in these areas. That said, his acceptance of that brief was a serious lapse of judgment, since in my view a leader cannot behave the same as the ordinary members of an association. A leader who is unable to realize that his role demands unique sacrifices will soon exhaust his supporters’ loyalty.
The public argument between Jairam and Hudson-Phillips was upsetting for some people, but to me it showed undue preoccupation with status and mutual respect at the expense of the client’s interest. Hudson-Phillips objected to the apparent decision by Jairam to accept that brief without consulting either his clients or the dismissed attorney. It seemed to me that if all those people had been consulted, Hudson-Phillips would have been just fine. All of which Jairam proved in his reply.
The entire exchange came across as being very self-interested with scant attention being given to the major interest at stake in this sorry affair. No surprises there for a lot of us.
The starting-point is Minister Howai’s decision to change attorneys at this advanced stage of the Colman Commission. From what I have seen, it seemed that Fyard Hosein was doing a good job in representing the Ministry of Finance, so what was the basis of that decision to change attorneys?
The largest single interest in this entire CL Financial bailout is the taxpayer and I maintain my view that they have been very poorly served in the entire process. The taxpayer is represented in this matter by the Ministry of Finance, which is in charge of the Treasury.
For one thing, the legal costs to the Ministry for the Colman Commission have increased tremendously as a direct result of that decision. The new team will have to read and digest vast amounts of complex material; all of that time has to be paid for by us.
It also seems to me that the new team will, as a result of the sheer size and complexity of the matter, be operating at a serious disadvantage. The quality of our representation is also sure to be diluted, however eminent the various new attorneys.
So, a high public official decides to switch attorneys at a very advanced stage of what is likely one of the most complex, hotly-contested and expensive matters in our country’s history. That decision immediately inflated the legal costs, with the predictable side-effect of likely diluting the quality of the representations to be made on behalf of us taxpayers.
There are serious concerns that the switching of these lawyers was an act of political revenge. When this matter came up during a Senate sitting on 16th October, Howai is reported to have said “…We consulted on whom we should choose… no I don’t want to get into detail, everybody will have their own point of view but at the end of the day the client decides…”
It seems from that reported statement that the Minister is relying on his undoubted rights to switch teams. The obvious concerns and the care which that Ministry should exercise as upholders of the public interest appear to be of low priority.
Howai’s refusal to even attempt an explanation of such a major decision in a matter of this size and consequence is deplorable. The distracting argument between the two leading lights only contributed to the seriousness of our crisis. I would like to hear from the Law Association, or even some of the leading attorneys on this matter.
That refusal to explain and the distraction of the argument are elements in what I have been calling the ‘Code of Silence’.