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Commissioner's remarks put cloud over  Inquiry in Grenada

June 7 St. George's Grenada: Just days before the restart of an inquiry into an allegation of a $500,000 bribery allegation against Prime Minister Keith Mitchell the Commisioner is accused of jumping the gun.

Commissioner, Dr. Richard Cheltenham, Q.C.,in an interview given to the BBC Caribbean on June 1st 2005, when asked the question: How long will the inquiry take? To this he answered by saying:

" long the inquiry takes will really depend on the cooperation that we get from the witnesses who are abroad." The Commissioner then goes on to outline the circumstances of the editor of Offshore Alert, Resteiner and Timothy Bass and then offers the following comment:"But as far as the persons in Grenada are concerned who will be testifying and they are not witnesses to anything, if indeed there was anything that took place, they are really testifying to Resteiner’s connection to the state, the circumstances in which he became appointed."

This comment in particular is regarded as most injudicious and unbecoming of a Commissioner charged with the responsibility to fairly and impartially inquire into the allegations made against the Prime Minister, without fear, favour or pre-disposition towards one outcome or the other.

Since the Commissioner has not yet begun officially receiving the testimony of witnesses, he has no way of knowing what persons in Grenada would or would not testify to unless he has already "debriefed" these witnesses or received "will say" statements from them.

To embark on either of these measures would be grossly inappropriate. The conclusion that the persons in Grenada who shall be testifying "are not witnesses to anything" is a finding that can only be properly and impartially made after the Commissioner hears the testimony of these persons at the Commission of Inquiry. Such a conclusion cannot be properly arrived at before the Commission begins its deliberations. That the Commissioner has arrived at such a conclusion before the commencement of the Inquiry tends to lead one to the conclusion that the Commissioner harbours a pre-disposition towards exonerating the Prime Minister.

By The Prime Minister’s own admission- made in his address to the nation on May 19th 2004- he was accompanied on his trip to Switzerland by two (2) members of the Royal Grenada Police Force as well as Grenada’s Permanent Representative to the European Community stationed in Brussels. The conclusion that the persons in Grenada who shall be testifying "are not witnesses to anything leads one to the inescapable conclusion either that: The Commissioner has no intention of receiving evidence from these persons even though they were on the trip to Switzerland; or The Commissioner intends to receive evidence from these persons but he already knows- before the commencement of the Inquiry- that they will all be testifying that they did not witness anything.

In view of the foregoing, leading Grenadian and regional legal minds are some what convinced that the conduct of an inquiry by the current Commissioner into the allegations made against the Prime Minister would be plagued by a cloud of doubt and suspicion as to whether and to what extent the Inquiry is thorough, transparent and impartial.

In light of these developmets it may well be in the best interest of justice for the Commissioner to excuse himself or the Governor General should  immediately revoke his appointment as the Commissioner to investigate the allegations against the Prime Minister and to reconstitute the Commission without delay.

This has nothing to do with the integrity of Dr. Cheltenham but the singular concern here is to safeguard the integrity of the investigative process which is key to thedevelopment of the country in order to put fair closure to what happened in 2000 in Switzerland.

As most legal minds say that justice must only be done but must be seen to be done. The need for a public perception of fairness, openness and impartiality is especially great where what is at stake is the integrity of the Office of the Prime Minister of Grenada.

A public perception that what is taking place is not a genuine Inquiry but merely an attempt to whitewash the Prime Minister would serve, not only to undermine public confidence in the democratic institutions, but would send the wrong signal to investors looking to do business in Grenada.

Legal  minds in the region believe that in light of the damaging statements made by Dr. Cheltenham without hearing from key witnesses he should do the honorable thing and do it now.

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