The Chairman of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, Sir Richard Cheltenham, is clearing the air over the Commission’s failure to hand over the final report of the Commission to the President directly.
In a four page statement issued on Saturday, Sir Richard explained that it was the President’s Secretary who told the Commissioners that the report should be left at the Office of the Attorney General on Tuesday after the Commission was unable to hand over the report on Monday to the President himself.
The Commission Chairman said along with Commissioner Seenath Jairam, he went to the President’s Office on Tuesday, cleared security and they were taken to a waiting room but were later told by the President’s Secretary that he was engaged and the report should then be left at the AG’s office with his Secretary.
He said at first they were told that the time for the Tuesday handover was tentatively set for 12:30pm but when no confirmation came and persons who should have made the confirmation could not be reached, a decision was made to go ahead and be at the President’s office for the handover.
“We were keen to discharge our obligation and hand over the Report. At 12:45 pm with no word from the President, the Chairman instructed Mr. Denbow (Commission Administrator) to alert our security personnel and the police that we were going to the President’s office at 1:00 pm to hand over the Report. On arrival at the President’s office we identified ourselves to the security at the front gate and stated that we were there to deliver the Report. The security officers called someone and in short order, a lady came and asked that we follow her. We were taken to a room where we waited for the President”, Sir Richard explained.
He continued that “after about twenty-five (25) minutes a lady (whom we assumed to be the President’s Secretary) came and informed us that the President would not be able to see us as he was otherwise engaged. She added that he had instructed that we should take the Report to the Secretary to the Attorney General and leave it with her. That we did just before 2:00 pm.”
Sir Richard Cheltenham said he took photographs all along the way and of the handover to the Attorney General’s Office.
With regards to the Commission not being able to print the entire report on Monday because of running out of ink, he said when the typed version of the Report was being printed at the Hotel through private printing facilities, the Chairman received word that the ink had run out. The Secretariat was contacted for a replacement and the Commissioners were advised that the Secretariat had no ink and it would have to be procured by the Administrator of the Commission Secretariat, Mr. Denbow.
“We were further advised that the Secretariat had tried and failed to reach the Mr. Denbow. The Chairman tried to reach Mr. Denbow without success. At 11:15 am on that said morning he came to see us at the Marriott Hotel and explained that he had been meeting with aviation officials visiting the country and apologised for being out of reach. He said further that he had provided ink days before in anticipation of the printing and was surprised that it had run out. He, however, left the hotel and returned at 11:45 am with the additional ink which he purchased personally. We then re-commenced the printing of the report”.
He explained that the Commission wanted to hand over the report the same day but the Commissioners were told that the President would not have been available for the rest of the day on Monday and that was the reason behind the decision to move the hand over to Tuesday.
Mr. Cheltenham also sought to clear the air about the Commissioners not having a signed contract for their work and the need for them to be paid for the writing of the report.
“The terms and conditions under which the Commissioners’ services were engaged were settled with the former Attorney General, Mr. Anil Nandlall, who, at all times, was acting on behalf of the President. There was no signed contract which is not uncommon in Commissions oflnquiry. The Chairman was careful, however, to send a letter dated 10 February, 2014, to Attorney General Nandlall reflecting the terms of our engagement which had .been agreed with the Chairman and the other Commissioners at the Amaryllis Hotel in Barbados on the 8 of February, 2014. “
He said before that letter was dispatched to the then Attorney General, the Commissioners agreed to a reduction of their fees with Attorney General Nandlall and were paid in accordance with the agreed reduction.
“One of the elements of our engagement included a writing fee for the Commissioners, as is the norm. A writing fee is a standard part ofthe engagement ofCommissioners. It reflects the reality that Commissioners have to spend considerable time, separate and apart from hearing the evidence, in analysing and writing up the Report. It is the fee paid to Commissioners for the final phase of their responsibilities. “
He said the writing fee was due to be paid in full, ten (10) days before the delivery of the Report.
A letter from the Chairman setting out the terms with respect to writing fees was provided to the Administrator, at his request, during the last sitting ofthe Commission in August, 2015. The Chairman reminded the Attorney General in writing on 20th January, 2016, that a writing fee was due to the Commissioners.
“Notwithstanding that, none of the writing fee was paid, the Commissioners went to Guyana determined to discharge their responsibilities under the Terms of Reference and have done so.”