Commission of Inquiry…Lindeners have independent lawyers – Sharma Solomon
By Zena Henry
Today is the deadline for witness statements to be submitted pertaining to last July’s fatal shootings in Linden, yet the mining town’s residents are reluctant to approach the appointed lawyers attached to the Commission of Inquiry (COI). They have thus selected independent lawyers to take their statements and hand them over to the appointed Commissioners.
Region 10 Chairman Solomon Sharma said that Lindeners have rejected the appointment of Euclin Gomes and Gamesh Hira, the two lawyers tasked with gathering evidence and witnesses for the investigation into the Linden shooting that left 24-year-old Shemroy Bouyea, 46-year-old Allan Lewis, and 17-year-old Ron Somerset dead.
Solomon explained that Lindeners are still trying to ascertain the procedure under which the two attorneys were appointed and uncertainty in that regard has evolved into the reluctance of the residents to go to the Commission’s appointed lawyers. The residents, Solomon noted, have instead secured independent attorneys.
“We do not know how those lawyers were appointed,” Solomon insisted. “Witnesses are concerned, the RDC is concerned, and that has caused reluctance of witnesses to go straight to the Commission. Instead the witnesses prefer to go to legal representation who would take copies of their statements given and turn them over to the Commission of Inquiry.”
The Region, Solomon said, has additional concerns about the two appointed lawyers attached to the Commission, both being attorneys out of the law office of Attorney General Anil Nandlall. He stressed that the Commission and those functioning on the body should be totally independent.
“The Commission and those functioning on the Commission must be independent or appear to be independent. We don’t believe that it demonstrates that at the moment because of the fact that you have this very compromising situation of persons working out of the law firm of the Attorney General who are going to be in possession of statements acquired.”
Coupled with that, Solomon asserted, “Concerns lie not on competence of the lawyers or information not getting to the Commission, but compromising the information and the manipulation of such data before the Commission is ready.”
Earlier this month, Attorney General Nandlall said, “I don’t think that the opposition’s objection is deserving of a comment” when he was challenged by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s Joseph Harmon about the appointment of attorneys to the Commission coming out of his office. Nandlall argued that the two lawyers are both professionals who are not at all associated with the adjudication of the inquiry.
Meanwhile, Solomon opined that today’s deadline for statements to be submitted to Commission of Inquiry should be extended. He said one must note that some residents are nervous and cautious in the manner in which they give their information since no protection is available to them.
“The deadline is inadequate….we still have to go into the community and encourage persons to come forward. We can’t take away from the fact that some people are still a bit nervous and are very cautious given the fact that there is no witness protection system in place. In fact, we had to convince some people only yesterday (Tuesday) to come forward with their information and leave their fear behind. They did come forward and have given statements to those independent lawyers.”