Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tivoli COE: 3-month enquiry lasts 14 months



The Report of the Tivoli COE is expected around mid-April, some two (2) months after the end of the public hearings. Those public hearings took place over some fourteen (14) calendar months.
The Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Western Kingston Commission of Enquiry states iner alia:

2. The Commission shall use its best efforts to conclude its enquiry within three (3) months after it commences, and shall make a full and faithful report on and recommendations concerning the aforesaid matters, and transmit the same to His Excellency the Most Honourable Governor General, within two (2) months after concluding its enquiry.” 

Obviously there was the expectation that the public hearing would have lasted some three (3) consecutive calendar months from the date of commencement baring any unavoidable and unforeseeable delays. Similarly the Report should be submitted to the Governor- General within two (2) consecutive calendar months of concluding of its enquiry, baring any unavoidable and unforeseeable delays.

The Chairman of the Commission from very early in the exercise realized there was a problem in respect of the number of potential witnesses primarily from the security forces and the residents of Tivoli Gardens. An attempt was then made to cull the list of potential witness thereby calling those who would have added something to the evidence already adduced and to focus the testimonies on the particulars of the TOR.
Such attempts met with mixed results as both Attorneys and witnesses paid little or no regard to the strictures that the Chairman tried to impose. Being televised and rebroadcast there was added sensitivity not to be potrayed as limiting the evidence or unduly restricting the strategy of the attorneys.

The Chairman then resorted to an unusual (albeit practical) interpretation of the TOR by:
(i) inferring that the three months should not be taken to mean three consecutive calendar months;
(ii) that the three(3) months meant in fact ninety (90) non- consecutive working days .

That interpretation allowed the Chairman free reign to conduct the hearings at any period of time primarily, but not exclusively, at his convenience . There seems to have been serious underlying problems faced by the Commission Secretariat which severely impacted the logistics. (see our Tivoli COE: Impractical timelines)

In his concluding remarks the Chairman sought to justify his interpretation arguing that the tasks assigned could not have been completed within the time frame specified in the TOR.
Interestingly, and possibly not consistent with his unusual interpretation of the duration of the enquiry, he promised that the Commissioners would use their best efforts to submit the Report within the two (2) months specified. The expectation is that it will be two (2) consecutive calendar months and not sixty(60) non-consecutive working days.

It is untenable for a 3-month enquiry to last some 14 months due to the interpretation of it being 90 non-consecutive working days.



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