By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
There is a petition circulating requesting His Excellency, David Arthur Granger, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana to "Allow the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (WRCOI) Two More Weeks to Hear Testimony from Key Witnesses." As I noted in response to such arguments made by Rodney Lawyers:
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Created September 17, 2015
Mr. Pieters: Thank you very much. Selwyn Pieters for the People’s National Congress [PNC]. By way of Extraordinary Gazette dated 8th July, 2015, under the signature of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Harmon, Minister of State, the life of the Commission was extended for the final time to 30th November, 2015. That is the date specified by the President, by which the Commission shall render its report, findings and recommendations to the President within that specified period.
It is our submission that the Commission, whose life has been extended to 30th November, has not been terminated prematurely.
Mr. Chairman, the position that we take is that nothing precludes written hearing for those issues to which the Salmon letter pertain. It is our position and the other parties may disagree, but certainly questions can be submitted in writing. The persons to whom the information is sought can submit affidavit evidence and the parties can be given an opportunity to file additional written submissions or supplementary written submissions - if that is necessary. Mr. Chairman, for that proposition I relied on a case called Vale v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada  O.J. No. 6466, 40 O.R. (3d) 347, per Cullity J.
Mr. Chairman: Just spell it for the purposes of the records.
Mr. Pieters: V-a-l-e vs S-u-n-l-i-f-e A-s-s-u-r-a-n-c-e Company of Canada. That was a reported decision, 1988, for the OR which is “Ontario Reports”, the third edition, 347. Mr. Chairman, my friend, Mr. Pilgrim, and rightfully so, spoke about the audi alteram partem rule and certainly we do not disagree that in administrative proceedings nemo judex in causa sua) and other audi alteram partem exist and certainly in the case of …
Mr. Chairman: I think for the purposes of the listening public, you should try to avoid the Latin tides and if you use them, you should explain what they mean.
Mr. Pieters: Certainly Mr. Chairman. The two terms speak to issues of fairness and issues of impartiality, so they speak to those two concepts. In a case called Marks vs Minister of Home Affairs, 35 West Indian Report, at page 134, that decision cited a case called Kanda vs the Government of Malaya, 1962 AC322, in which Lord Denning, given the judgment of the Privy Council said this:
“The rule against bias is one thing. The right to be heard is another. Those two rules are the essential characteristics of what is often called natural justice. They are the twin pillars supporting it. The Romans put them in the two maxims: nemo judex in causa sua: and audi alterem partem. They have recently been put in the two words, impartiality and fairness. But they are separate concepts and are governed by separate considerations... If the right to be heard is to be a real right which is worth anything, it must carry with it a right in the accused man to know the case which is made against him. He must know what evidence has been given and what statements have been made affecting him: and then he must be given a fair opportunity to correct or contradict them... the judge or whoever has to adjudicate must not hear evidence or receive representations from one side behind the back of the other.”Mr. Chairman, I say that because the fact is, the questions and evidence that Robert Corbin, for example, was required to answer have been crystallised since November, 2014, when Lieutenant Sydney James testified. We say that no plausible explanation has been offered on why a Salmon letter was not issued to him shortly thereafter. His name was serialised in the media by the consultant of the Commission, Shaun Michael Samaroo in an article called “Corbin delivered guns to the House of Israel” in the Guyana Chronicle on 3rd June, 2014. We understand the concerns that Mr. Pilgrim has raised in respect to the three business days’ notice, to which these Salmon letters were issued, but we say that no explanation has been given to us as to why the Salmon letter would not have been issued to Robert Corbin, shortly after Lieutenant Colonel James testified in November, 2014.
Mr. Chairman: Perhaps you will allow me to interrupt you just to say that, the usual practice in commissions is that, towards the end, one sends out their Salmon letters, otherwise the same person may have to get three or four, so one really determines who the persons are that merit Salmon letters when the evidence is really at an end. That would have been premature to send out one at that point. It is really not in keeping with the standard practice, but I have taken note of what you said. Please proceed.
Mr. Pieters: In respect to Norman Mclean and “Skip” Roberts, we understand that “Skip” Roberts was here for a certain period and his evidence was not taken. We also understand as well that the evidence for “Skip” Roberts would have been crystallized in January, 2015, and the same applies in respect to him that there is no explanation as to why he was not issued his Salmon letter previously. So, the PNC’s position, therefore, is that enough time has been allocated to the Commission to wrap up its proceedings, including obtaining evidence from witnesses issued Salmon letters without personal appearance. Such witnesses, as I indicated before in my submissions, can give their evidence by way of affidavit and counsel can submit written questions to those witnesses and supplementary written submissions, arising out of any evidence that becomes available, can be made. There is therefore no breach of legitimate expectation, as Mr. Pilgrim submits and no breach of natural justice of the Rodney’s family are asserted. Therefore, we submit that any request for petition to the President should be disallowed, since, indeed, one has until 30th November, 2015, to complete their mandate. Those would be my respectful submissions.
Mr. Chairman: Thank you very much, Sir. I regard your suggestion with respect to responses, by way of affidavit from those who have not yet testified, as worthy of serious consideration by the Commission. It is a question to some extent of resources as well, but it is certainly not an idea not worthy of serious considerations, so thanks very much for your submissions, Sir.
The Commission was constructed to attack the PNCR/APNU-AFC coalition and had on its payroll Shaun Michael Samaroo, A Special Corespondent for the Guyana Chronicle
Mr. Shaun Michael Samaroo whose special reports of the Rodney Commission of Inquiry appeared in the Guyana Chronicle, was paid $7,300.00 U.S.D. per month through the budget assigned to the COMMISSION OF INQUIRY TO INQUIRE INTO AND REPORT ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATH IN AN EXPLOSION OF THE LATE DR. WALTER RODNEY. See, for example, March 28, 2015, Hanoman discredits Wagner’s testimony, Guyana Chronicle; March 26, 2015 Wagner to unveil secret list of ‘big names’ – Says assassination suspect Gregory Smith revealed list of names connected to Dr Walter Rodney’s assassination Guyana Chronicle; January 28, 2015 Robert Allan Gates makes stunning claim at Rodney Commission –McLean, Lewis, Roberts vital to dark Rodney plot Guyana Chronicle; November 14, 2014 article "Special Report on the Rodney Commission of Inquiry by Shaun Michael Samaroo, Detailing PNC State machinery violence against WPA at Rodney Commission" Guyana Chronicle; November 07, 2014, Special Report on the Rodney Commission of Inquiry by Shaun Michael Samaroo, At Rodney COI… Gopaul, Williams ‘brawl’ in dramatic face-off Guyana Chronicle; October 31, 2014, Special Report on the Rodney Commission of Inquiry by Shaun Michael Samaroo, Remote trigger detonated bomb that killed Rodney, Guyana Chronicle; August 07, 2014 Special Report on the Rodney Commission of Inquiry by Shaun Michael Samaroo, Commission Chairman slams Basil Williams’ propaganda idea Guyana Chronicle; August 06, 2014, Special Report on the Rodney Commission of Inquiry by Shaun Michael Samaroo, Police files reveal PPP sought peaceful resolution to PNC dictatorship, Guyana Chronicle; August 05, 2014, Special Report on the Rodney Commission of Inquiry by Shaun Michael Samaroo, Laurie Lewis wrote, mailed Teekah death threat, Guyana Chronicle; June 5, 2014 Shaun Michael Samaroo, Granger was Army Liaison to GPF in Gregory Smith probe : – Says former Army Chief-of-Staff McLean, Guyana Chronicle; June 03, 2014 Corbin delivered guns to House of Israel, Guyana Chronicle....
I wrote to the three Commissioners, Sir Richard Cheltenham, K.A., Q.C., Ph.D; Mrs. Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, Q.C.; and Mr. Seenath Jairam, S.C., directly by way of email on March 16, 2015 and June 01, 2015. In a stunning denial, the Chairman of the Commission, Sir. Richard L. Cheltenham, K.A., Q.C., Ph.D – Chairman (Barbados), looked me in the face and said to me and the world that he never heard of Samaroo in spite of the numerous front page stories in the Chronicle and in the face of my two emails to him:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: March-16-15 11:00 PM
To: Hugh Denbow
Cc: KEITH SCOTLAND; Brian Clarke; firstname.lastname@example.org; Andrew Pilgrim; Selwyn Pieters; Chris Ram; Latchmie Rahamat; Glenn Hanoman; Nigel Westmaas; Daylight; Tchaiko Kwayana; wazir mohamed; Shaun Michael Samaroo; Jacqueline Samuels-Brown; Dr. Richard L Cheltenham; Seenath Jairam; Edward Meertins-George; Asha T. Rodney
Subject: Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry
Good evening everyone,
The Commission resumes next Monday and as I have made arrangements to be there for yet another sitting I am confirming that Mr. Lincoln Lewis and I will again be available for his evidence to be taken and have booked my flight and hotel. However, the Commission has yet to respond my correspondence seeking confirmation in light of the witnesses scheduled next week, Mr. Donald Rodney and Ms. Anne Wagner, whether Mr. Lewis' evidence would be reached.
On another note, I applaud freedom of the press and "responsible journalism". However, the propaganda in the Guyana Chronicle leaves much to be desired and does politicized the Commission in an unacceptable way. Today's online publication in its headline section alone illustrates the point:
"Our nation stands perplexed and puzzled that Opposition Leader, Brigadier David Granger, adamantly refuses to participate in this process. One would expect, not only as a former top leader of the Guyana Defense Force (GDF), but also given his current leadership role in our nation, that Brigadier Granger would want to solve the Dr Rodney cold case and see the ghost of the past put to rest." <http://guyanachronicle.com/rodneys-death-an-enigma-being-answered-special-report-on-the-rodney-commission-of-inquiry-by-shaun-michael-samaroo-rohee-testifies-to-commission-of-x13/> retrieved on 2015-03-16
The Commission has yet to reach witnesses Lincoln Lewis, Cecil Skip Roberts, Norman McLean, Rupert Roopnarine. This process, unless Salmon Letters, were issued is voluntary. So it is unclear why the taxpayer funded papers is carrying the line that "adamantly refuses to participate in this process." In a meaningful way Granger is present in through his counsel Basil Williams.
"But the Opposition Leader refuses to acknowledge the Commission’s integrity, and even said that if his coalition wins the May 11 national elections, he would terminate the Commission’s work." It was repeated to the Commission more than once that a Presidential Commission survives irrespective of who is the President of the Republic of Guyana. How then does the Guyana Chronicle get away with the irresponsibility of stating that the Commission folds if a new government assumes power?
"The Commission vindicates the role of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), and is writing the admirable history of this political party in the making of modern Guyana." The Commission has made no findings and has written nothing in respect to the WPA or any other political party.
"The Opposition uses the excuse that the Government is using the Commission as political currency, to opt out of facing the evidence the Commission unearths." As a Canadian based lawyer of Guyanese origin reading this said view that the Commission is being used as "political currency", the process of examination, cross-examination, re-examination and other built in mechanism such as impartiality, integrity and other tennets of the quasi-judicial system makes that difficult, in the hearing process.
The fact that Shaun Michael Samaroo continues to serialize the Commission's work in a way that can forment racial divide and antagonism is simply unacceptable.
I have telegraphed my view very early as I intend to bring the various newspaper clippings to the hearing next week and have them addressed.
The witnesses up to the final moment of the Commission's hearing remains to be seen. However, purported blackmail of potential and/or prospective witnesses through unfounded and untested allegations splashed across the national newspapers are unhelpful.
In Canada, Leon Mugesera faced the musing for his propaganda and speeches in the lead up to a genocide. Mugesera v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration),  2 SCR 100, 2005 SCC 40 (CanLII), <http://canlii.ca/t/1l249> retrieved on 2015-03-16
I pull no punches in say that given the current situational context in Guyana such publications in the face of an election campaign is not only unhelpful but disgraceful.
I am still awaiting that confirmation.
Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public
As well, on June 01, 2015, I directly raised the issue of Samaroo with the Commissioners.In the Written Arguments of Counsel for the People's National Congress by Basil Williams and Selwyn A. Pieters, Written Submissions of the People's National Congress, July 23, 2015, we raised the issue of Shaun Michael Samaroo.
From: Selwyn Pieters
Sent: Monday, June 1, 2015 08:11 PM
To: 'Jacqueline Samuels-Brown; Dr. Richard L Cheltenham; Seenath Jairam; Hugh Denbow',
Subject: GUY$325 million spent on Rodney Commission of Inquiry; State media reporter paid US$7,000 per month to cover hearings
See attached. What attracted my interest is "US$7,300 per month to a state-media operative for his coverage of each sitting of the inquiry." This is utterly ridiculous when the Commission did not even saw fit to reimburse Brian Clarke and I for our costs of showing up on numerous occasions only to have our witness, Lincoln Lewis, deferred.
I am not satisfied with the newspaper report and would like to see the entire breakdown of the cost of this tribunal including costs. I complained previous about Shaun Michael Samaroo's coverage of the Commission's proceedings <http://guyanachronicle.com/rodneys-death-an-enigma-being-answered-special-report-on-the-rodney-commission-of-inquiry-by-shaun-michael-samaroo-rohee-testifies-to-commission-of-x13/> and if he was paid out of the Commission's budget this seriously gave rise to serious questions having regard to the failure of the Commission to address the concerns raised in my March 16, 2015 email. In fact, my email was ignored and the Commission of Inquiry was used by the PPP/C Presidential and other candidates to, without any basis, attack the APNU-AFC coalition.
Anyway, in light of all of the above, I would like to know to whom I must submit my invoices for disbursements on behalf of myself and Mr. Clarke.
The duration of the International Commission of Inquiry (ICoI) into the death Dr. Walter Rodney is uncertain as Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams, says the inquiry has cost Guyanese taxpayers GUY$325,194,226 to date, GUY$16 million of which was paid to a state-media operative for his coverage of sittings.
Williams, who made the disclosure to reporters during an interview today, said the amount given does not include the costs for future sittings, the next of which should take place in July. “This thing is not finished…, they didn’t know the government would have changed,” he remarked.
“Were gonna wind it down,” we can’t afford it,” the Minister continued. Before the ICoI is concluded however, the various lawyers have to be allowed to make submissions, after which the Commissioners must present their decision. “There has to be a sitting for submission to be made, upon completion of which the Commissioners would render their decision on the matter. If that is the case the lawyers would have to be informed that they have to give submissions.”
Detailing some of the specifics of the expenditure, Williams said payment for the Commission’s three Commissioners, two Attorneys – at – Law, and a designated journalist from a state-media entity amounted to $150,777,000. Particularly discomforting, Williams shared, is the fact that records show that government paid out US$7,300 per month to a state-media operative for his coverage of each sitting of the inquiry.
Efforts to contact Shaun Michael Samaroo, who covered the COI for the state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper, and that paper's Editor-in-Chief, Mark Ramotar were unsuccessful.
To date, he explained, the journalist, whose identity he has declined to disclose, has been paid US$80,000 ($16 million. “This is squandermania that took place…and abuse,” said Williams, who described the costs as “horrendous.”
On June 13th, 2013 the Government of Guyana (GoG), under the Donald Ramotar Administration, announced that it had approved the establishment of the ICOI following a request from the Rodney Family. Rodney was killed on June 13, 1980 when an explosive device went off in a car in which he was sitting. Due to the circumstances surrounding his killing, it has been deemed an assassination.
Ramotar had said that such an inquiry was necessary to allow Guyana to start the healing process after more than 30 years of uncertainty concerning Rodney’s death, and to avail his family closure. The inquiry commenced April of 2014, and was supposed to wrap up at the end of the year. The government, however, announced that they were extending the Commission’s life indefinitely.
General Secretary of the Peoples National Congress, Basil Williams, as well as other party members have dismissed the ICoI as a “witch hunt,” the aim of which was the sullying of the name of the PNC. As a result of its opposition to the ICoI, the PNC has refused to participate, although Basil Williams did attend sessions to defend the party’s interest.
“We are convinced that he real reason for it was political,” lamented Williams, who added that the ICoI ended up serving “no useful purpose aside from vindicating the PNC…we said at the outset it was a witch hunt. We have hearsay upon hearsay upon hearsay,” says Williams who now believed that “…their intention to undermine the PNC and to undermine our (election) campaign in the APNU totally backfired.”
Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public
So for the Chairman to tell me he never heard of Shaun Michael Samaroo prior to my oral arguments does not instil confidence in the Commission.