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:
"..how 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
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
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.