“Yet now, after he is fired and humiliated, he can’t wait to talk to a non-legal, non-binding committee, who he is confident will vindicate him?
“Let us be clear: no committee can vindicate Smith at this stage. That opportunity has already been forfeited and he should be ashamed for trying to pull this particular brand of wool over our eyes.”
The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Wired868 by attorney-at-law and former minister of justice Christlyn Moore:
Member of Parliament and former minister of sport Darryl Smith could not be serious. When accused of workplace harassment, he declined an opportunity to be heard before a court, whose business it is to distinguish truth from lies.
He chose to keep his particular truth to himself and to further obscure it behind a non-disclosure agreement. He chose to have his ministry be a party to a settlement figure of at least TT$150,000 in furtherance of the attempted concealment of his truth—and that of his accuser for that matter.
He went as far as to declare that he was not a party to the action—a lame attempt at playing smart with stupidness. Yet now, after he is fired and humiliated, he can’t wait to talk to a non-legal, non-binding committee, who he is confident will vindicate him?
Let us be clear: no committee can vindicate Smith at this stage. That opportunity has already been forfeited and he should be ashamed for trying to pull this particular brand of wool over our eyes. But then again, right-thinking people are entitled to ask whether Smith has any shame at all.
Non-disclosure agreements are an effective silencer of both truth and lies. These agreements aim to protect both sides from the consequences of their respective actions and offer a firm lid on litigation, regardless of outcomes. But they have no place in litigation against or involving public officers acting in that capacity, persons holding high office when acting in that office, and the running of state enterprises operated on the public dime.
There should be no opportunity for an arrangement which obscures the public’s opportunity not only to scrutinise the actions of the public official but also to have oversight of the management of public funds.
But the matter becomes stranger and stranger. What is the information that the Prime Minister hopes to ferret out by committee that is not disclosed on the papers filed in court?
If Smith declined to file court papers, then that’s up to him; I’m sure he acted with the benefit of excellent legal advice when he took that decision. But what is the Prime Minister going to do with this untested, self-serving information?
Is he going to convene a new court? And if there is no cooperation by the accuser, who has already been vindicated in court and by way of compensatory settlement, what then?
Is the country now going to be set against her so as to once again distract from the real issue, which is that a minister of government was accused, in court, of making inappropriate sexual comments to an employee, who was later fired, and that that minister elected not to defend himself when a case was brought?
And then there is the PNM Women’s League, an elaborate ‘Amen Corner,’ whose ethical compass is so compromised that one wonders if it ever existed.
A week ago, its leader proclaimed the Smith affair “a non-story,” dismissing the public outcry and, by extension, the agreed conclusions arrived at in the matter. That was when Smith seemed still to enjoy the grace and favour of his boss—and theirs,—the Prime Minister.
Fast forward one week when Smith is fired, less than 24 hours after receiving his instrument of appointment. The group now sings a different song. Suddenly, the Prime Minister has handled the matter with sensitivity!
Well, why did we need sensitivity for “a non-story”?
And because irony is not dead, on the very day that Smith is fired, the Office of the Prime Minister issues a media release on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace which opens with the lines: “The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago takes all allegations of sexual harassment seriously.”
I couldn’t make this stuff up.
It is clear to me that the weight of public opinion broke the back of this cancerous situation, not to mention the belated realisation that Smith’s promotion to Housing was once again taking him in contact with his accuser, whose accusations had gone unchallenged.
It is also clear that this non-legal, non-binding committee has no power to undo the mess that has already been made. Regardless of their findings, they will never be able to wash the stain off Smith, who is now in the invidious position of being a Member of Parliament rightly to be distrusted by all women coming into his orbit.
Why then is Smith still with us?
Editor’s note: As the duly elected representative for Diego Martin Central, Darryl Smith continues to serve as an MP although he is no longer in the Cabinet.