Express Editorial : Daily

Much has happened since April 2018 when, in response to media reports of sexual misconduct allegations against former sport minister Darryl Smith, Government spokespeople claimed no knowledge, limited knowledge or “nothing untoward”.

At the time, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was “trying to find out what went on there”; Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis did not know “where you all are getting this story…The media is trying to make a story out of a non-story. I don’t know if you all are pursuing real issues (instead of) trying to set an agenda”; and Attorney General Faris al-Rawi and Minister Stuart Young suggested it was a routine labour dispute.

The public and alleged victim Carrie-Ann Moreau, Smith’s former personal secretary, were justified in expecting a swift, procedurally proper investigation. Under the innocuous banner of “wrongful dismissal” had unfolded a precise detailing of 45 days of sexual harassment allegedly perpetrated by a then holder of ministerial office, corroborated by other members of staff. It stirred a national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Apart from the obvious necessity for accountability from Smith, much else relies on the findings and fate of the report into his conduct while he was minister: a) the use and ethics of non-disclosure agreements in the public service; b) the conduct of permanent secretary Joan Mendez to whom Ms Moreau claimed she took her complaint; c) the practice and policies around contracted personal ministerial staff etc.

The report by Permanent Secretary Jacqueline Wilson, Folade Mutota and Elaine Green was submitted on June 4, 2018. Its findings regarding the conduct of some public officers had to be overseen by the Public Service Commission, said the Prime Minister, and they were following due process and natural justice. The public interpreted that to mean the Government was addressing whatever legal matters arose with a view to releasing the report.

This newspaper is unsure what is meant by the report being “unusable” and why simple remedies could not be found in 16 months. We concur with attorney Martin George that it is “highly unacceptable for the Government to not properly account to citizens on such serious allegations…There must be clear and direct accounting…”

The Freedom of Information application being heard before the court should have been an unnecessary default. We find ineptitude of the three-member committee a tough ask and urge the Government to facilitate release of the report. Ms Moreau’s witness statement filed in the Industrial Court, and reported in this newspaper, is a persuasive account of misbehaviour. The investigation has been done. In the absence of access to those informed findings compiled by the Committee, Ms Moreau’s statement stands as a powerful and unanswered accusation.

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

AS much as the public welcomes T&T’s hosting of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) cricket tournament next month, it is understandably galling to nationals abroad to feel trapped there while the Government approves the entry of 250 non-nationals involved in the tournament.

IN my article on June 23, I stated “I seldom respond to accusations and allegations of racial discrimination in our society knowing only too well how explosive and destructive racial conflicts can destroy a society/nation”.

AT a recent radio interview I was asked why am I relating the diversification of our economy moreso to knowledge, its creation and innovation as opposed to, say, simply reviving the sugar and rice or similar industries and seeking to compete in traditional markets?

“FORGET it, Jake. It’s Chinatown,” says an old friend to Jack Nicholson as the mother is killed, the little girl is handed over to the bad guy and the police wash their hands of it at the end of the 1974 classic film Chinatown.

Sometimes it requires a personal rather than political or professional perspective to see beyond the borders of a seemingly divisive circumstance, and to offer a dispassionate comment. I was named by my father after his cousin, Hilary Alfonso McDonald Beckles. “HAM Beck”, as he was called, was little known in our native Barbados, but his contribution to nation building in Guyana is well respected. In the late 1940s he fled “Bim” for “BG”. He taught classics for near three decades at Queens College in Georgetown, where he also became principal.

Just to be clear on the issue of the decision to host the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2020 here in T&T. People appear to be losing sight of several of the facts that are at the heart of the issue. There have been a lot of emotional responses so far. Allow me the opportunity to inject logic and fact into the argument. Here are some important facts to keep in mind: