Jurist: Government must ensure Paria CoE has all resources

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Jerome Lynch, QC.

A SENIOR jurist is saying that since the Government is on record as recognising the importance of the Paria drownings commission of enquiry, it should do all within its power to ensure the necessary resources are available to the commission in order to do its work.

The jurist, who asked not to be named, said he listened closely to the procedural hearing on Wednesday at which commission chairman Jerome Lynch, QC, complained bitterly about the inquiry being hamstrung by a severe lack of basic resources needed to begin its work.

Lynch said that Energy Minister Stuart Young had to “plunder” the office of the Prime Minister in order to get chairs and desks for the commission and that he (Lynch) was waiting to be provided with pens, paper, printers, scanners and internet connectivity in order for the commission to begin its work.

The procedural hearing was held at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. Counsel to the commission, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, as well as attorneys including Prakash Ramadhar, Kiel Taklalsingh and others, who are representing the interests of the families of the four divers who drowned while doing repair work on undersea Paria installations, were present at the hearing.

Efforts to reach Maharaj and the families’ attorneys for comments on Lynch’s complaints proved futile.

However, the jurist who was willing to speak anonymously, said, “From what I heard, he (Lynch) made it clear that he does not want to get into the facts as to who is responsible .The commissioners, the counsel to the commissioners and the other attorneys are not responsible for that (resources for the commission).”

The jurist said Lynch made it clear that Young and Udecott chairman Noel Garcia tried their best to ensure the inquiry could start.

“I think you all just have to use your imagination, when it comes to deciding who is to blame for this state of affairs. The judiciary gets all of its resources from the administrative arm of the State and similarly, the commissioners get all of their resources from the administrative arm of the State,” the jurist said.

“Let’s be practical, the line minister (Young) depends on the public service, but what the chairman (Lynch) was doing, was giving a signal that whatever has to be done (to ensure the inquiry begins and does its work) has to be done, to ensure the smooth running of the inquiry.”

The jurist said the public and the media needed to put pressure on the government to ensure that the inquiry is held and does its work.

“This is an important issue in the country and I remember the government saying they wanted to get it done urgently and therefore, the government should take all steps to ensure it gets done,” the jurist said.