Public inquiry please!!!

THE NEW TODAY is not surprised at the decision by former Chief Executive Officer of the Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB), Ruel Edwards to approach the high court to get an order to stay the so-called Inquiry being launched by the Integrity Commission into alleged wrongdoing and questionable dealings at the state body during his tenure in office.

This newspaper had advocated from day one that the proper legal and correct channel to handle the MNIB issue is the Public Inquiry Act as set out by law.

Mr. Edwards’ lawyer, former Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood is quite rightly now asking the high court to call on the Integrity Commission, headed by female attorney-at-law, Anande Trotman-Joseph, to show where in law it has the authority to conduct such an exercise.

It was always a strange decision taken by the commission to announce that it will do the inquiry when Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell had told the nation weeks earlier that he was setting up a public inquiry into the MNIB saga.

It should be noted that the inquiry to be undertaken by the Integrity Commission would be done in private and behind closed doors without the public getting to hear first-hand the evidence of the persons being called to give evidence.

PM Mitchell is considered as a key and crucial witness as he is the Line Minister for MNIB and stated publicly that he was not aware of the financial predicament of the state body under Mr. Edwards’ stewardship prior to him taking up a new job at the Ministry of Finance.

The Prime Minister also told Grenadians that the things that were eventually discovered at the MNIB “are quite frightening” without going into details.

Quite naturally, many persons in Grenada were anxiously waiting on Dr. Mitchell to take to the stand at the public inquiry to give full details of the alarming things that were found at the state body.

It’s already in the public domain that a foreign supplier of sugar had taken court action against MNIB for nearly EC$1 million owed to it and that a local lawyer had obtained a court order to levy the money against the funds of the Central Government.

The public also heard about the spending spree by the Marketing Board to purchase over $350, 000 in first class ticket for overseas travel mainly by its CEO to Miami.

It is also public knowledge that Mr. Edwards has written to the Prime Minister requesting him to withdraw a number of statements that he had made which more or less put him in bad light in the public that were not true.

The former MNIB CEO indicated that he had met with Dr. Mitchell on several occasions and also sent him reports about the MNIB predicament which should have been taken to Cabinet for discussion and for decisions to be taken on those matters.

The public is quite naturally being denied the opportunity by the Trotman-Joseph mounted inquiry to hear both sides and to determine for themselves who is really at fault.

There is also the evidence to be given by former Chairman of the Board of Directors of MNIB, Samuel Andrew who is alleging that he had tried for months to get a meeting with Prime Minister Mitchell to bring to his attention matters relating to the state body but was not able to get an audience.

It raises the serious question as to whether the 72-year old ageing Prime Minister was too occupied with other matters of State and had little or no time to perform the role of Line Minister for MNIB.

Mr. Andrew has since resigned as a member of the ruling New National Party (NNP) of the Prime Minister.

Can he now be expected to speak the truth and nothing but the truth as he is no longer obligated to be careful in releasing information of a particular nature that can hurt the image of the Prime Minister and the party in the eyes of Grenadians.

However, the focus is now on the court action taken by Mr. Edwards to move the high court to stay the MNIB inquiry pending the outcome of certain reliefs that he is seeking through attorney Hood.

The Integrity Commission is not known to be clothed with laws similar to those possessed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the United States which can open and conduct any probe of a criminal nature.

Several lawyers operating on the island have held the view that the scope of work of the Integrity Body is limited to the regulations in the act that set it up namely to deal with matters of declaration of assets by persons who fall under its purview.

THE NEW TODAY renews its call for the conduct of a public inquiry into the MNIB affair as provided for by the Public Inquiry Act and not the kind of closed door inquiry being undertaken by the Integrity Commission in which only certain information are filtered to the public.

The MNIB business is the business of the public as it was set up by the 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) to give a boost to agriculture and the nation’s farmers in particular.

The people have a right to know what was taking place with the finances and assets of their business and not for the holding of any private inquiry to keep them out of the know.

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