SEAN DOUGLAS AND LAUREL WILLIAMS
ACTIVIST Folade Mutota, member of the committee which probed the sexual harassment matter against former sports minister Daryl Smith, has accused two senior members of government of misogyny towards the committee in rejecting their report as unusable. The claim was flatly denied by the Attorney General.
Faris Al-Rawi told Newsday on Monday, “The report was flawed in law and could not be disclosed.
"The report of the committee stands apart from its members for whom I have the utmost respect.”
He recalled giving the media the reasoning of attorneys Douglas Mendes SC and Rishi Dass as to why the report was flawed.
On October 31, the Prime Minister alleged at a post-Cabinet briefing that the committee had not questioned Smith, so breaching his right to be heard. This, Dr Rowley said, went against the rules of natural justice.
Newsday, on Monday, was unable to contact Mutota to ask if her committee had given Smith an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him.
Earlier, she had issued a media statement also posted to her Facebook page where she said that amid a commemoration of 16 days of activism against gender violence, she spoke out against an allegation of a case of public perpetration of violence against women.
Mutota alleged the Government had sought to silence and disregard the work of the women on the Smith inquiry which was commissioned by Rowley.
She alleged the Government had “sought to silence women’s voices in their attempts to wash their hands of any responsibility for transparency and accountability to the pubic...”
Mutota said, “The very public and pejorative characterisation of the report as ‘unusable,’ and words to the effect that the methodology used by the committee resulted in the denial of natural justice, callously sacrificed the professional credibility, competence and reputation of anyone who served on the committee including myself.”
She said the three women on the committee had served without payment but to give national service, yet now after the Government’s utterances found their professional conduct diminished.
“Such injustice runs counter to the pursuit of achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which Trinidad and Tobago is committed to.
“A declaration about the number of women in high office in TT is insufficient to remove this shame. It is on the public record.”
She said the saga reflected the daily reality of women whose work can be sacrificed on the altar of the boys club.
“I urge women to continue to come forward to serve in public office notwithstanding such barriers.
“I have never allowed any government to silence me and there is no reason for me to allow this administration to do so. As these 16 Days come to an end with Human Rights Day on December 10, I choose to exercise my right not to be silenced.”
Al-Rawi, at an event at Bayshore, Marabella on Monday, told reporters he had given two attorneys' legal opinion at a news briefing.
"That is the only thing that I have done. I gave the written opinion of a very eminent senior counsel to treat with the issue. I do not know if that is what Ms Mutota is referring to as misogynistic. I can only speak to the law."
Saying Mutota was someone he "likes tremendously", Al-Rawi said he does not associate himself her comments. The AG said he has the "world of respect" for her.
But Al-Rawi said he was confident that her comments "could not be driven towards either the Prime Minister or me.
"The last page of the report produced by that committee said, ‘We accept that we have not carried out natural justice and that you should be aware of that.'
"What more can I do? How should I treat with that?" he asked.