UDP Chairman says PUP is being duplicitous

UDP Chairman says PUP is being duplicitous

The opposition is outraged over the Cabinet Secretary’s decision to deny the Special Select Committee the Cabinet documents related to the Portico Definitive Agreement. Last month, the body investigating the Portico agreement wrote to the CabSec, Stuart Leslie, requesting copies of Cabinet documents related to the agreement. On Monday, Leslie responded to the body to inform them that he would not be able to approve its request after receiving legal advice. Love News understands that the decision was based on section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act, which prevents Cabinet papers from being disclosed to the public. However, United Democratic Party Chairman, Attorney Michael Peyrefitte, says that section of the law is being misinterpreted. 

Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Chairman: “I think it shows a lack of respect for the process, but it’s not surprising. The Prime Minister doesn’t respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act when it comes to the people’s monies. I wrote him the other day asking him about who was paid as consultants or advisors for the port agreement. He has not sent that to me. The committee asked him for the documents that they considered, that they looked at to help the committee do its work and they have just flat out said, “no”. And I don’t know what the committee will do from here. Technically it’s like this then, you have a committee formed to examine an agreement and the government doesn’t even want to produce the agreement. So what does that mean? What does that tell you? And the terms of reference were clear. The terms of reference were clear. We want to know what were the circumstances that led to the signing of that agreement and we want to know what were the circumstances that led to the prime minister tabling that set of papers in cabinet asking cabinet to approve a document with accompanying legislation even after one of the best lawyers in the world told him that agreement was essentially trash. The committee in its request did not ask for a tape recording of the cabinet meeting you know ? They said, listen, the documents that were sent to cabinet, what are those? And let’s be frank Jules we already have them. So let’s disclose them because we all know that there is nothing secret in any cabinet not even deliberations are secret. By the time you come out of cabinet half of the media knows already which minister was saying what in whichever cabinet. So there is no secret, one. Two, this government got elected on the basis that they would be so transparent you could see up their nose hole. They would be so transparent because they have nothing to hide. Thirdly, this is not John Jones requesting a cabinet document so he or she could read it on a Sunday. This is a senate select committee, a committee coming out of the upper house tabling a motion before the senate. The senate approved that at the time a member, a senior member, in my view the de facto prime minister sat in the senate as a minister and member of cabinet did not object to the terms of reference, did not object to the motion and now you come and claim privilege? No man, it doesn’t fly.”

In related news, Chairman Peyrefitte also weighed in on yesterday’s Senate hearing where former Minister of Lands, Hugo Patt, and former Lands Commissioner, Wilber Vallejos appeared. The men were primarily questioned on matters relating to government land transactions that occurred between October and November 2020, only days before the general elections. The committee attempted to probe into whether the transactions were above board, that attempt was stonewalled by the men’s attorney, Senior Counsel Dean Barrow. Peyrefitte was asked whether he felt the approach of his colleagues mirrored the CabSec’s decision to not provide information. 

Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Chairman: “You have a terms of reference if it is so important to the portico investigation, if it is so critical, so central, such a thing that it cannot exist without it, then put it in your terms of reference. Why wasn’t it put in the terms of reference? No matter how interesting and juicy something may appear to you if it is not within the terms of reference of an investigation you cannot, you cannot go into it, that’s a simple thing. It’s like you go to court and you’re asking about the murder or something and then you’re asking something that’s totally left field the judge can say what’s the relevance ? That’s not relevant to what we’re investigating. The people who sponsored this motion in the Senate were specific. They want to know the circumstances that led to the signing of this agreement. So I can understand you’d call me. I can understand you call Tracy but if you’re a private individual, an attorney representing your client or whatever, and you are engaged in transactions that have to be approved by the government say for example I buy a piece of land from you and I have to take that to the National Resources Ministry to get the transaction approved in terms of stamp duty or whatever. Or if I’m buying land from the government and the government has to approve the sale of it and everything, it was enunciated very, very well in a court of appeal case recently that listen to me the responsibility lies on the government or the public official. Because you and I can do whatever we want to do the government still has to approve it. So you and I can get into a million ideas as to what we want to do with either government land or the transfer of land all of that has to be stamped and approved by the government. So if two private individuals get engaged in land transactions and it’s approved by the government then how can you blame those two private individuals?”

Interestingly, as it relates to the letter from the Cabinet Secretary, Love News understands that he had already explained to the Clerk of the National Assembly, back in October last year, that some of the documents being requested were exempted from disclosure.  The other documents, which included correspondences sent to attorneys, the Attorney General, Beltraide and the Investment Committee for legal opinion, the Office of the Cabinet Secretary indicated that those are not in his possession.

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