The Commissioners of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry say the left their report with the Secretary to Guyana’s Attorney General on the instruction of President David Granger, after they failed to deliver the report on 1st February, 2016 because the printer’s ink had run out.
In a statement that was signed by Commission Chairman, Sir Richard Cheltenham and Senior Counsel, Jainath Seenan, they said they have not been paid separately for writing the report.
When Sir Richard did not present the report on 8th February, 2016, Attorney General, Basil Williams had expressed concern especially against the background of the fact that the report should have been presented since 30th November, 2015.
Following is the full text of the statement by Sir Richard and Mr. Brown.
The date and time set for the handing over of the Report of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry was Monday 8th February, 2016, at 12 noon. Mrs. Samuels-Brown, Q.C. had to leave Guyana in the early hours of Monday 8th February, 2016, and Sir Richard L. Cheltenham, Q.C., and Mr. Seenath Jairam, S.C. remained in Guyana.
Before we arrived in Guyana the Chairman was assured that all the appropriate arrangements would be put in place to ensure that the Secretariat would be properly equipped to complete the Report. On arrival the Commissioners appreciated that that had not been done.
On the first working day in Guyana, Monday 1 st February, 2016, no fixed space had been assigned for the completion of our work. We were taken to a building being outfitted as the headquarters for all future Commissions. We also visited the premises previously assigned to us. We agreed that we would work there but the premises had to be cleaned overnight and staff recruited to begin work the next day. It was only close to midday on Tuesday 2nd February, 2016, that the premises were made available. However, the Secretariat had no printer, but only a photocopying machine.
At about 9 am on the morning of Monday 8th of February, 2016, when the typed version of the Report was being printed at the Hotel through private printing facilities, the Chairman received word that the ink had run out.
The Secretariat was contacted for a replacement. The Commissioners were advised that the Secretariat had no ink and it would have to be procured by the Administrator of the Commission Secretariat, Mr. Denbow. We were further advised that the Secretariat had tried and failed to reach the Mr. Denbow.
The Chairman tried to reach Mr. Denbow without success. At 11: 15 am on that said morning he came to see us at the Marriott Hotel and explained that he had been meeting with aviation officials visiting the country and apologised for being out of reach. He said further that he had provided ink days before in anticipation of the printing and was surprised that it had run out. He, however, left the hotel and returned at 11 :45 am with the additional ink which he purchased personally. We then re-commenced the printing of the report.
When the Chairman first learned of the ink problem he immediately contacted Attorney General Basil Williams, who was the link between the Commissioners and the President, and advised him of our difficulties. He said that the President, who was already fed up, would be disappointed and he gave us the contact numbers for the President at his Monday office. He suggested that the Chairman call the President. In the course of the conversation the Chairman suggested to the Attorney General that we would be happy to deliver the Report at the President’s convenience anytime that afternoon or evening. The Attorney General said that the President was unavailable to receive it at any of the times indicated. He further advised that he, the Attorney General, would be out of office early on Tuesday morning but that we should deliver the Report to his office.
As the Commissioners we felt that it would be improper and inappropriate to deliver a Presidential Report to the Office of the Attorney General and that we should try to discover when, on the next day, Tuesday, the President could receive us.
With that in mind the Chairman did try twice unsuccessfully to reach the President to explain our unavoidable difficulty and asce1iain whether we could deliver the Report to him personally on Tuesday.
On the third occasion the telephone was answered by a lady who confirmed that she was the President’s secretary. She advised that she could not transfer the call to him. However, she undertook to let him know that the Chairman had called. She was given the Chairman’s contact numbers to pass on to the President. We never received any call nor any message from the President.
However, we became aware on Monday night that a public statement had been made by the Attorney General to the press to the effect that the President was fed up with the Commission, among other things. The statement gave the distinct impression that it was the responsibility of the Commissioners, and particularly the Chairman, to make provision for ink and that the running out of ink was the fault of the Chairman. The Commission had been asked to submit a typed version of the Report. The Executive undertook to have the Report printed and bound by the Government Printery.
In Commissions of Inquiry the provisioning of the Commission Secretariat, staff, physical office and office supplies is done by the Executive, not the Commissioners.
On Tuesday morning, very early, the Chairman instructed Mr. Denbow to contact the President’s office to ascertain when on that day it would be convenient to the President to receive the Report. Mr. Denbow made a call and subsequently advised the Chairman that the hour for delivery at the President’s office was tentatively set for 12:30 pm but that the time had to be confirmed by the President’s office.
By 10:45 am we had received no such confirmation. The Chairman further instructed Mr. Denbow to call every ten (10) minutes to see whether we could have confirmation of the 12:30 pm hour for delivery. At a little after noon Mr. Denbow came to the Hotel and reported that the officer who had given him the 12:30 pm time was not in office and the other persons at the President’s office whom he contacted were of no assistance.
We were keen to discharge our obligation and hand over the Report. At 12:45 pm with no word from the President, the Chairman instructed Mr. Denbow to alert our security personnel and the police that we were going to the President’s office at 1:00 pm to hand over the Report.
On arrival at the President’s office we identified ourselves to the security at the front gate and stated that we were there to deliver the Report. The security officers called someone and in short order a lady came and asked that we follow her.
We were taken to a room where we waited for the President. After about twenty-five (25) minutes a lady (whom we assumed to be the President’s Secretary) came and informed us that the President would not be able to see us as he was otherwise engaged. She added that he had instructed that we should take the Report to the Secretary to the Attorney General and leave it with her. That we did just before 2:00 pm.
Photographs were taken at each stage of our journey, including at the security hut on the premises of the President’s office and at the office of the Attorney General/Ministry of Legal Affairs. There is a photograph of the Chairman handing over the Report to the Attorney General’s secretary as well as a photograph of the Minister’s secretary with Commissioner Jairam.
There is another matter on which the facts need to be set out by the Commissioners. The terms and conditions under which the Commissioners’ services were engaged were settled with the former Attorney General, Mr. Anil Nandlall, who, at all times, was acting on behalf of the President.
There was no signed contract which is not uncommon in Commissions oflnquiry. The Chairman was careful, however, to send a letter dated 10111 February, 2014, to Attorney General Nandlall reflecting the terms of our engagement which had .been agreed with the Chairman and the other Commissioners at the Amaryllis Hotel in Barbados on the 8111 of February, 2014. Subsequent to that letter the Commissioners agreed to a reduction of their fees with Attorney General Nandlall and were paid in accordance with the agreed reduction.
One of the elements of our engagement included a writing fee for the Commissioners, as is the norm. A writing fee is a standard part of the engagement of Commissioners. It reflects the reality that Commissioners have to spend considerable time, separate and apart from hearing the evidence, in analysing and writing up the Report. It is the fee paid to Commissioners for the final phase of their responsibilities.
The foregoing notwithstanding, surprise is now being publicly expressed by the now Attorney General about a writing fee when it has at all times been part of the terms of our settled and established engagement, consistent with standard practice.
The writing fee was due to be paid in full ten (10) days before the delivery of the Report. A letter from the Chairman setting out the terms with respect to writing fees was provided to the Administrator, at his request, during the last sitting of the Commission in August, 2015.
The Chairman reminded the Attorney General in writing on 20th January, 2016, that a writing fee was due to the Commissioners. Notwithstanding that none of the writing fee was paid, the Commissioners went to Guyana determined to discharge their responsibilities under the Terms of Reference and have done so.
Our report was delivered in accordance with the instruction and direction of His Excellency