Simpson Miller, others to answer Trafigura questions in open court
FORMER PRESIDENT of the People's National Party (PNP) Portia Simpson Miller and four other party functionaries are to confer with their attorneys shortly to discuss their next move following yesterday's
ruling by the nation's highest court to dismiss their appeal that has stalled the long-delayed Trafigura case.
The decision by the Court of Appeal clears the way for Simpson Miller, a former prime minister, and her colleagues to answer questions under oath in open court about a $31-million donation made to the PNP by the Dutch firm Trafigura Beheer while it formed the government more than a decade ago.
Up to late yesterday, attorney-at-law Patrick Atkinson, who is part of the legal team representing the five PNP functionaries, said he had not had an opportunity to discuss the ruling by the Court of Appeal with his clients.
"But we will meet and discuss it and, after that, we will see how it goes," Atkinson told The Gleaner.
Authorities in the Netherlands want Simpson Miller; PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill; the party's region three chairman, Phillip Paulwell; former general secretary Colin Campbell, and businessman Norton Hinds to answer a number of questions about the multi-million donation, which came at a time when Jamaica had a oil-lifting agreement with the Dutch firm.
The Court of Appeal, in its 78-paragraph judgement, sided with retired High Court judge, Justice Lennox Campbell, who ordered, in November 2011, that those answers must be given in open court.
'The judge was correct!'
Lawyers for five People's National Party's (PNP) functionaries argued, among other things, that High Court judge Justice Lennox Campbell had no discretion to order that the proceedings, being conducted under the Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act (MACMA), should play out in open court.
President of the Court of Appeal Justice Dennis Morrison, in his written judgement, noted that the principle of open justice is the norm in Jamaica, both at common law and under the Constitution. He, however, acknowledged that it is subjected to exceptions in both instances.
Morrison indicated also that with no relevant regulations issued under the MACMA, "the question of whether the public should be excluded in a particular case is, accordingly, one for the court to determine".
"I, therefore, think that the judge was plainly correct to assume a discretion to decide whether or not the public should be excluded from the MACMA proceedings," Morrison wrote.
According to judicial insiders, the ruling also clears the way for Chief Justice Zaila McCalla to select a judge to preside over the taking of the evidence from the five PNP functionaries.