RADHICA DE SILVA
Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, who is the Senior lead legal counsel for the Commission of Enquiry (COE) into the deaths of four divers says Commissions of Enquiries are useful in the gathering of independent, impartial advice.
Responding to a list of questions posed by Guardian Media as to whether the COE into the divers’ deaths can affect impending criminal and civil proceedings and delay justice for the divers’ families, Maharaj said, “It would not be proper for me to make public comments on the work of the Commission before the Senior Counsel to the Commission has a meeting with Chairman of the Commission and members of the Commission.”
However, he added: “Commissions of Enquiries are important tools of the State to conduct independent enquiries on matters which have caused public disquiet. They are used to investigate matters of public interest.”
Maharaj noted that the “Commission of Enquiry Act of our country gives to the Commission powers of the High Court to summon witnesses, to also call for documents and to examine these witnesses and parties on oath.”
He explained: ” Persons summoned to attend to give evidence are bound to obey the subpoenas issued and served on them. Commissions of Enquiries are therefore valuable mechanisms in the arsenals of States to use to gather information and evidence in an independent and impartial manner and for the governments to get independent and impartial advice.”
The former attorney general further said: ” They are also useful to provide information to the public for governments to be open, transparent and accountable to the public.”
Support has been expressed for Maharaj’s selection as lead legal counsel. Attorney Prakash Ramadhar who is representing the interests of lone survivor Christopher Boodram and divers Yusuf Henry and Fyzal Kurban told Guardia Media that he felt satisfied that Maharaj was part of the COE.
“If it is true that Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is legal counsel to the Commission of Enquiry then I think we all as a country are very fortunate to have a man like him contributing his talents and abilities to this effort,” Ramadhar said.
He added, ” I am lifted to hear that he can be participating in this. I feel many of us in this country will feel a greater sense of confidence that a robust and independent-minded individual like Mr Maharaj will be there to guide the Commission in its legal considerations and deliberations.”
Nicole Greenidge, the mother of diver Yusuf Henry, also felt happy that Maharaj was on the Commission.
“His experience is vast and it will be good to have him on the Commission. I hope that with him there we can get the truth,” Greenidge said.
Larry Boodram, the brother of lone survivor Christopher Boodram told Guardian Media last week that he felt worried at the possibility that the COE could affect the success of future criminal proceedings.
Boodram said he wanted criminal charges to be laid against the Paria executives who refused to search the 30-inch diameter pipeline to save the divers.