AG on Paria enquiry fiasco: Check President, Ramesh, not me

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney General Reginald Armour. File photo/Jeff K Mayers

ATTORNEY General Reginald Armour SC at a briefing at his ministry on Wednesday said he was not actively addressing complaints of under-resourcing made earlier by Jerome Lynch, QC, chairman of the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the Paria diving tragedy.

Armour said, “That commission of enquiry is appointed by the President. I suggest you address your questions to the Office of the President.”

Asked if Lynch had personally complained to him, the AG said no.

“He has not spoken with me.”

Pressed on this, Armour said, “I’m not looking into it. This is the first time I’m, hearing of it.”

Newsday asked Armour what was his responsibility to the CoE, given his role as the Government’s legal representative/adviser?

Armour replied, “I’m not about to say I’m disinterested. I’m not about to disavow my responsibilities as Attorney General.

“I have had significant experience in commissions of enquiry, I have been counsel to several of them, and one of the things persons should appreciate that arises very often is that these commissions are appointed by the President under the Commission of Enquiry Act, (are) regulated under that act, and, very important, all of those commissions have independent counsel who are also appointed by the President.

“So perhaps your questions can be directed to the very well respected Mr Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, who will be able to make the inquiries and give the answers.”

Newsday began to ask Armour about the fact that the commission may be appointed in the name of the President, but this was only a ceremonial post, but he cut in.

“May I? I don’t want to interrupt you, sir, but I did not come to speak about the Paria Commission of Enquiry.”

He said he had instead called the news briefing to illustrate what he considered unbalanced reporting in the day’s media, holding up a newspaper (not Newsday), whose headline he countered by denying the firearm user’s licence (FUL) audit report had been “shot down.”

Later, a statement from the Office of the President, in reply to Newsday’s queries, stated, “The Office of the President appoints the Commissioner on the advice of the Cabinet and that is our sole responsbility.”