As the verdict has been decided before hearing any evidence, Counsel to the Commission of Inquiry Mr. Bilal Rawat said no closing oral submissions will be made on behalf of the Ministers of Government and the members of the House of Assembly, due to the failure on the part of the Attorney General’s Office and Silk Legal to comply with the directions issued by the inquiry.
Speaking yesterday, November 17 during a direction hearing, Mr. Rawat said the AG Hon. Dawn Smith lodged the matters in which she wished to make closing submissions on the 29th of October but at the same time, she made an application to extend the time by which closing submissions should be submitted from her office, from the 12th of November to the 29th of November.
However, he informed, that the application was refused in a letter from the CoI dated the 5th of November.
Again, the AG wrote on November 11 through the Inquiry Response Unit (IRU) and again sought an extension to the 29th of November but the CoI was willing to allow the closing submissions on November 15.
“On the 15th of November, the CoI received an email from the IRU explaining that the AG was not in a position to provide written submissions today, maintaining her request for extension of time and concluding that “in the circumstances, we will respond to your letter as soon as we are able.”
Mr. Rawat further said correspondence from the CoI to the AG sent on Wednesday, November 17, explained that the application for extension had been refused and at present, there was no application before the Commissioner for further time.
“So the position that we have reached is that the AG has not complied with the directions to submit her closing submissions by the 15th of November,” he said.
Mr. Edward Risso-Gill who represented the AG during the hearing yesterday said the AG will not apply to make oral submissions but “what I can say I anticipate being in a position to make an application to put them before you by 4 pm on Monday but it won’t be before then,” he said referring to the written submissions from the AG.
Commissioner Hickinbottom said it was “unfortunate” because the timeframe was given to allow him to peruse the closing submissions and raise any queries about the said submissions if necessary. However, he will consider the application when it comes into the CoI as making any directions during yesterday hearing would have been pointless.
He also said despite the letters to the CoI for the reason behind the delay, he did not find any of the reasons to be compelling from the AG.
He said an application would also be required for any submissions from the elected ministers who wish to make closing statements and they will only be weighed on their merit.
Mr. Rawat said similarly, Silk Legal did not comply with the directions either.
He explained that on the 22 of October at the directions hearing, Commissioner Hickinbottom directed that Silk Legal should by the 29th of October lodge a list of those matters on which they intended or would like to make closing submissions.
“You [Commissioner] also directed that they should by the 26 of October file any written submissions concerning the Sea Cows Bay Project, which involved as a minister, Hon. Julian Fraser. Silk Legal did not comply with either directions. In the absence of any information, the CoI press notice which notified the public of the date of the hearing noted that Silk Legal hadn’t complied with the directions concerning closing submissions or had applied for an extension and so they would not be making oral submissions,” Rawat said.
The CoI’s attorney noted that following the press notice, Silk Legal sent their closing submissions immediately and they apologized for missing the deadline for filing final submissions, but “gave no explanations as to why it was missed nor did they make an application for an extension of time to comply with the order.”
He continued: “And in those circumstances the question that arises is whether indeed he wants the submissions to be put before you.”
Commissioner Hickinbottom told Mr. Richard Rowe of Silk Legal, that he proposes to extend the time and he will take Silk Legal’s written closing submissions into account but he is not making an application to make oral closing submissions.
“I don’t see at this stage of the CoI that there is any benefit in exploring why this deadline like so many other deadlines was missed,” he said.
“We agree with you entirely,” Mr. Rowe said.
"So it will be treated as a receipt?” he asked the Commissioner.
Sir Gary replied, “Yes, that’s correct I will take them into account.”
The closing submissions are slated to be held on November 24 when Governor John Rankin would be giving evidence in what is expected to be the final evidentiary hearing.