Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kaieteur News news item. October 15, 2009. TCL ‘troubled’ by Jagdeo’s statements on CCJ

The TCL Group yesterday said that it is ‘troubled’ by President Bharrat Jagdeo’s comments that there is a conflict of interest on the part of Dr Rollin Bertrand being the Chairman of the Trust Fund of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and at the same time being the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the TCL Group.
TCL has won the legal challenge it took to the CCJ against Guyana for waiving the Common External Tariff (CET) on the importation of cement.
Jagdeo’s statement, the TCL Group said, casts doubt over the integrity of the CCJ and attacked the character of TCL Group’s and CEO Dr. Rolling Bertrand.
The TCL Group said it is troubled by President Jagdeo’s comments since, in his capacity as Chairman of CARICOM, “he is expected to properly represent the integrity of regional institutions.”
In addition, President Jagdeo is a signatory to the Treaty establishing the CCJ and the CCJ Trust Fund, and as part of the original “design team” he is well aware of the institutional arrangements that are in place to insulate the Court from any kind of interference – political or otherwise, the TCL group stated.
“These robust mechanisms have even been applauded by international onlookers and will certainly be tested during the current imbroglio,” the TCL group declared.
According to the TCL GROUP, a Board of Trustees consisting of eminent persons in business, civil society and the judiciary governs the CCJ Trust Fund. During its short time, two Chief Justices have been Trustees and have been party to the discussions of the “conflicts of interest” in the cases before the CCJ (TCL v CARICOM and TCL v GoG).
The Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) has a Trustee on the Board of Trustees. The CAIC Trustee on the Board of Trustees is a TCL executive. The Board of Trustees also has representatives of the Secretary General and there are two Guyanese nationals on the Board.
The Board has no interaction with the judges of the CCJ and cannot influence the Court’s decisions, the TCL Group stated, adding that the institutional arrangements to protect the Court from politicians also protect the Court from all other parties, including Trustees.
The claim, by President Jagdeo, that Bertrand “regularly” interfaces with the Court” could not be further from the truth, the TCL Group stated.
The Court and the Fund interface through the CCJ Court Administrator and the Executive Officer of the Fund. There is the occasional exchange of correspondence between the two institutions, but the Board always sanctions these, the TCL Group stated.
In order to influence the Court, the Fund would have to be able to exercise some power over the judges - and no such avenues exist, TCL stated, noting that the Fund was established simply to manage the US$100 million initial capital raised by Member States to fund the Court, when requested.
The Fund does not decide on the Budget of the Court and it disburses moneys to the Court in quarterly installments as requested.
If the Trustees fear that the Court’s expenditure is getting out of hand, the Board of Trustees is required to solicit the intervention of the Secretary General of CARICOM to curb the Court’s expenditure plans.
Trustees have no say in Court expenses and have no veto power over any financial request of the Court, the TCL Group stated. The terms and conditions of the judges are established and altered by the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC). The Board of Trustees has no input into these matters.
“In short, the Fund is powerless against the Court”, the Group stated.
When TCL took legal action against the Caribbean Community and the Government of Guyana (GoG), Dr. Rollin Bertrand immediately declared a “potential conflict of interest” to the Board. Dr. Bertrand offered to give up the post of Chairman or even come off the Board, but after lengthy discussions and a legal opinion from eminent Senior Counsel, the Board agreed that Dr. Bertrand not step down.
In the matter of TCL versus CARICOM, there was a representative of CARICOM on the Board who was also “conflicted”. More distantly, the representative of the Caribbean Congress of Labour on the Board would have been connected to TCL and TGI’s employees and could also be said to have a “conflict of interest”.
Notwithstanding the above, Dr. Bertrand has been very cautious during the pendency of the case. He has kept out of any interface with the Court even staying away from CARICOM functions where the President of the Court would have been present, the TCL Group stated.
As far as TCL’s case went, Dr. Bertrand did not sign any affidavits nor did he appear as witness in the matter.
While the comments of the President of Guyana are very unfortunate, this incident presents an opportunity for the public to learn about the Court, the TCL Group said, noting that the media must play an important part.
The Group declared that independence of the CCJ is extremely robust.
The TCL Group anticipates that President Jagdeo would on reflection and consultation seek to correct the perceptions and damage to character and reputation caused by his recent comments.

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