Not since Roman prefect Pontius Pilate made a grand show of washing his hands—during a dodgy and memorable case immortalised in the New Testament—has a legislative body shown so much enthusiasm for ridding itself of a matter and so little stomach for taking responsibility for its decision.
Rather than make a public pronouncement on the “emailgate” scandal that has hung over Parliament for the past two years, the Integrity Commission yesterday sent its verdict to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s lawyer, Israel Khan SC, in a letter curiously marked “private and confidential.”
Naturally, the Prime Minister promptly ushered the correspondence into the public arena.
The Integrity Commission used merely one line to present its verdict, which was that “there was no or insufficient grounds for continuing the investigation into the above matter and accordingly this investigation is hereby terminated.”
But the commission, chaired by Justice Zainool Hosein, used two paragraphs to explain why it did not need to justify its decision.
Pilate, at least, abdicated responsibility with a better soundbite.
“I am innocent of this (case),” said Pilate, as he symbolically washed his hands in a basin, “see you to it.”
When taken in the context of the Prime Minister’s stance against the last release she did not fancy—she initiated moves to remove the deputy DPP, just 24 hours earlier—is it any wonder that the Integrity Commission had its foot on the gas and was reluctant to look in the rearview mirror?
For the umpteenth time then, the Prime Minister was cleared. We do not know how or why that is so.
But who are we to question such a questionable ruling—at least in the absence of accompanying information—in an era when the Prime Minister has ordered the heads of deputy DPP Joan Honore-Paul, director of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) David West and the NGC served a pre-action protocol letter to a Trinidad Express journalist for an investigative story that the State board admitted was based on factual information.
Discretion, Hosein might say about his hasty exit, is the better part of valour.
Persad-Bissessar enjoyed her victory. Again.
“This is a major victory for the Office of the Prime Minister and the sovereignty of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago… Now we can move on to the real issue here. That is the Opposition Leader’s arrogant actions in misleading the Parliament and impugning members of the Government…
“If he will do this to the Office of the Prime Minister, what would he do to those less able to defend themselves? If elected, whom would he bully and harass?
“Now that the Integrity Commission has pronounced and concluded their investigations… the Opposition Leader’s leadership is again called into question and once again it shows that he is unfit to lead our country.”
The Prime Minister’s statements, if she believes them, again arguably shows her failure to grasp the mood of the people.
If having persons in authority answer to investigative bodies for their conduct is bullying, then where can Wired868 sign up for a pro-bullying campaign? And, mind you, we want it applied to politicians on both sides of the fence.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley would have been deemed reckless in the extreme if he took emails to court that were found to be fake within a day. As was the case with the evidence of rape that Persad-Bissessar’s own team carried to Parliament to sully Rowley and his deceased father.
Had Rowley edited or manipulated those emails in any way, he should have been charged with criminal misconduct.
But this is a case that took two State-funded investigative bodies over two years to make headway on; and a matter the Prime Minister could not even get a favourable decision on through the Parliament’s Privilege Committee, chaired by her Speaker of the House Wade Mark.
It is difficult to see how the Diego Martin West MP could be blamed for failing to solve such a complex affair on his own.
Emailgate has one of two possible outcomes: guilty or not guilty. And it is not Rowley who is on trial.
Thus far, Persad-Bissessar has tried to charge and convict Rowley in the court of public opinion and through trial by media and everywhere but a court of law and the Privileges Committee.
If the Prime Minister is so certain of the Opposition Leader’s wrongdoing over this affair, then, by her own admission, she has enough court clothes, and the People’s Partnership has never been shy about filing litigation.
The IC made its ruling yesterday and fled the scene. Eventually, the Police Service will have its turn at the crease.
“Justice should not only be done,” said British Lord Chief Justice Hewart in 1924, “but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”
There is a case to be made that Trinidad and Tobago got a verdict from the Integrity Commission. But not justice.
Just as the Jews did with Pilate in that historic case.