Mon | Jun 14, 2021

CMU defends decision to hire lawyer

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2019 | 12:27 AM

One attorney-at-law has suggested that the decision by the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) to hire a private attorney to challenge court orders obtained by the Financial Investigations Division (FID) could have been avoided had the government agency followed the provisions of the statute.

“It seems to me that this is another example of the lawyers [who] are in charge of presenting the Government’s case from central Government or a statutory body or a body affiliated to the Government, they are not interpreting the specific statute correctly and following it to a T. In other words, if the statute says A, B, and C must be done, A, B, and C has to be done,” Dr Paul Ashley told The Gleaner in relation to a CMU-FID tiff over documents needed in a probe into irregularities at several agencies under the Ministry of Education.

He said that legal blunders that result in these circumstances are very costly to taxpayers.

“The taxpayers are being shafted by these legal foul-ups. Put it this way: That is why we are a country of laws, but the important thing is that the Government of Jamaica has the resources and has the obligation to get the best legal advice,” Ashley said.

While The Gleaner understands that CMU’s decision to hire attorney-at-law Hugh Wildman was well within its right as sometimes state bodies differ on legal opinions, it came under the microscope at yesterday’s sitting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament.

Committee member Fitz Jackson questioned the university’s motives for taking this course of action and CMU President Professor Fritz Pinnock offered an explanation.

“As I said before, we have complied, and as I said, there must have been other motives, and it’s not that we don’t want to hand over the documents, but the process was irregular in which it was done.

“Sir, we’ve seen a lot of times in this country where people’s rights are abused, and I’m just saying something because we need to follow the proper procedure. All we are challenging are the procedural aspects, you know. It’s not about the documents. It’s about the procedure ... . It could border on personal,” Pinnock said.

The opposition People’s National Party has since called on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to instruct CMU and all agencies of the ministry to fully cooperate with the FID and other state agencies responsible for investigations.