Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 20th 2015 Contents A4
The two Leaders Debate proposed by the
T&T Debates Commission between Prime Min-
ister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Opposition
Leader Dr Keith Rowley, originally scheduled
for August 20 and 27, have finally been can-
The commission in a statement yesterday said
it was confident the debates would have taken
place after initial positive responses were received
from all parties.
"This momentum generated optimism
that for the first time we would be able to
hear the main leaders of parties or alliances
debate their plans and policies for the
nation as they campaigned during this
general election," the commission said.
It added: "The initial public commit-
ments made by Persad-Bissessar and Rowley
inspired confidence that we would be able
to achieve the objective." The T&TDC said it
was "now clear that our optimism was short-
Monday was Nomination Day for the Sep-
tember 7 election. The commission said based
on its rules, the ruling People s Partnership (PP)
and the Opposition parties---the People s National
Movement (PNM) and the Independent Liberal
Party (ILP)---would have been eligible to par-
ticipate in the debates.
It said PP had indicated its willingness to
debate in July only and under certain specific
demands, while the PNM indicated its willingness
to participate in the debates in accordance with
the T&TDC s rules.
One of those rules, the T&TDC said was that
"the debates must be held after Nomination
Day, at which time those who qualify will be
It said the ILP had "declined participation in
the debates from an early stage."
The commission said: "Based on these posi-
tions and the recent statement by the leader of
the People s Partnership that she would not
debate under the auspices of the Debates Com-
mission, the planned debates cannot take place.
"The PM went so far to accuse the commission
of bias after confidential information submitted
by her team was leaked to the media."
The commission said it sought to ensure
that the event would be about the Leaders
Debates and not about the Debates Com-
It said it "initially tried to find some
middle ground between the two interested
parties positions, however, these were
The commission said it went about its mandate
in a fair and balanced manner at all times but
admitted to making an error during the nego-
tiations by suggesting the July 30 date to the
PM s negotiators.
The commission s release added: "In the con-
text of the on-going discussions with the parties
at the time, that single error was neither reflective
of a lack of competence nor was an issue that
eroded trust as some have chosen to represent
Joint Consultative Council (JCC) pres-
ident Afra Raymond will have to wait a
while longer for court-ordered documents
related to Government s multi-billion dol-
lar bailout of CL Financial.
Finance Minister Larry Howai yesterday
obtained a stay of a judgment of a High Court Judge,
who last month ordered that the documents, which
were used by Howai s ministry to formulated Gov-
ernment s bailout plan for the conglomerate in 2009,
to be disclosed to Raymond.
As a result of the stay, which was granted by appel-
late Judge Rajendra Narine, Raymond would not be
able to enforce the judgment until the substantive
appeal is heard on October 18.
Raymond filed the lawsuit after Howai refused to
accede to Raymond s request under the Freedom of
Information Act, which provides a method for mem-
bers of the public to obtain confidential documents
and records from State agencies.
Raymond is seeking to obtain CL Financial s audited
statements for the years 2008 to 2011, along with
any interim, preliminary, draft or unaudited statements
which were relied upon by the Minister of Finance.
He is also seeking the unaudited statements of CL
Financial for the years 2008 to 2011 which were relied
on to prepare the affidavit of former finance minister
Winston Dookeran in the High Court proceedings
filed by a group of Executive Flexible Premium Annuity
(EFPA) policyholders in 2012; the presentation made
to members of Parliament in September 2011 as a
briefing for the debate on the Central Bank (Amend-
ment) Bill and Purchase of Rights and Validation Bill,
2011, including all copies of slides, power-point slides,
tables charges and other text and information relating
to the presentation, as well as a list of creditors of
CL Financial, the names and dates of repayment to
EFPA policyholders and those whose investments
Howai s refusal was based on his ministry assess-
ment that the documents request by Raymond were
exempted under the act.
In his judgment, delivered on July 22, Justice Ronnie
Boodoosingh disagreed with Howai s justification
and ordered that the requested document be imme-
Howai s decision to appeal Boodoosingh s judgment
has been met with criticism from the T&T Trans-
parency Institute (TTTI).
"The cloud that hangs over this $25 billion bailout
with taxpayers monies must be removed. Release of
the information now ordered by the court will go a
long way towards demonstrating the Government s
commitment to transparency and accountability. The
public s right to know how public money is used
must be given utmost priority," TTTI said, as it called
on the minister to respect the court s ruling.
Despite the TTTI s call, Howai has defended
his position as he claimed that his refusal was
partly based on protecting the privacy of citizens
who financial records may be included in Ray-
mond s request.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, August 20, 2015
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