Integrity Commission counterpunch
Panton plans ‘no-holds-barred response’ to claims made in parliamentary joint select committee
Retired Justice Seymour Panton, chairman of the Integrity Commission and former president of the Court of Appeal, has indicated that he will be pushing today for the anti-corruption body to make a “no-holds-barred response” to any statements it...
Retired Justice Seymour Panton, chairman of the Integrity Commission and former president of the Court of Appeal, has indicated that he will be pushing today for the anti-corruption body to make a “no-holds-barred response” to any statements it considers false of misleading that may have been made so far by members of a parliamentary committee reviewing the Integrity Commission Act, 2017.
The attempt by some members of the joint select committee to bar the public and the media from last Thursday’s meeting did not escape the attention of Panton, who observed that there are some members who want to defang the Integrity Commission.
The commission’s proposed response to any alleged falsehoods emanating from the parliamentary committee’s deliberations will be discussed today at the regular meeting of the oversight body.
Panton, in speaking with The Gleaner, sent a strong signal at the weekend to those who may be seeking to weaken the anti-corruption watchdog that the “commission will not be intimidated by anyone”.
At the same time, Marlene Malahoo Forte, minister of legal and constitutional affairs, last week signalled that the original plan to have a meeting of a parliamentary committee reviewing the Integrity Commission Act, 2017, behind closed doors, would have heightened suspicion as to why the media and members of the public were barred in the first place.
The media were first invited to cover the parliamentary committee meeting, only to be informed that it was closed and subsequently opened again.
The Gleaner has been reliably informed that there were tense moments at the start of the deliberations before the media joined.
Committee chairman Edmund Bartlett threatened to adjourn the meeting twice and also warned that he would recuse himself and allow the committee to appoint a new chairperson to preside over the meeting.
Bartlett was said to be peeved because his proposal for the committee to meet in-camera, in the form of a retreat, was challenged by other members who argued that Parliament had informed the media that it was a regular committee meeting.
In relation to a submission that was made by Everald Warmington, who is a member of the joint select committee reviewing the law, The Gleaner has learnt that Malahoo Forte indicated that it was unusual for a lawmaker to make recommendations to a committee on which he sits and participates.
Malahoo Forte, stressing that it was “highly unusual”, noted that she could not recall if it had happened before.
At Thursday’s meeting, Warmington participated in the discussions and will ultimately vote at the end of the deliberations, on whether his own recommendations should be accepted.
Bartlett is said to have admitted that it might be unusual for a committee member to make a submission but noted that it had been accepted by the committee earlier.
An informed source divulged that the legal and constitutional affairs minister also said she had concerns about how the Integrity Commission was operating.
Last Thursday, Malahoo Forte accused the Integrity Commission of seeking to embarrass the Cabinet for failing to sign the Leadership Code of Conduct.
Before the final decision was made to open the committee to the media, The Gleaner understands that committee member Senator Sherine Golding Campbell said she was uncomfortable with the closure of the meeting.
Golding Campbell, who has been serving as senator since September 2020, cautioned her more senior parliamentary colleagues on how they had been proceeding.
The Gleaner understands that Golding Campbell told the chairman that the committee did not have the discretion to close the meeting because it was not designated a retreat.
As debate raged over whether to close or open the meeting, Bartlett said he would recuse himself as chairman to howls of “No!” from some committee members.
An informed source told The Gleaner that it was Warmington who first asked if the committee meeting was closed and advised its members that all parliamentary proceedings were generally open to the public.
Julian Robinson, an Opposition member of the committee, is said to have warned his colleagues that meeting behind closed doors could send a negative signal that things were being done to undermine the Integrity Commission.