TSTT farce

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC. Photo by Jeff Mayers
Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC. Photo by Jeff Mayers

THAT the Court of Appeal could soon ponder the purported legal question of whether the Telecommunications Services of TT (TSTT) is a public authority is not a cause for celebration. It is a cause for concern.

This is a case that should never have got this far.

Not only should TSTT not have appealed a High Court ruling which held it to be a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, but activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj’s litigation should never have been necessary in the first place.

We call upon new Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, to review the history of this matter.

We are of the view that such a review will likely reveal a wasteful abuse of process that does a disservice to the public interest by frustrating the free flow of information that citizens are entitled to. Effectively, it is little more than an expensive delaying tactic.

There are some cases that should be pursued to the fullest extent in order to settle the law. Such cases may be ones that raise complex questions of statutory interpretation that might usefully be settled by the court; involve the sensitive balancing of individual rights with wider social interests; or involve the interests of an individual claimant who is in extreme jeopardy.

This case is most certainly not one of these.

In reply to a freedom of information request asking for the salaries of TSTT’s executive management as well as the stipend paid to members of its board of directors, the company in 2016 advised the applicant, Mr Balgobin-Maharaj, that it is not a “public authority” and therefore the relevant legislation was not applicable.

How TSTT could have ever imagined that such a position was sustainable or appropriate is beyond understanding.

Mr Balgobin-Maharaj took the matter to the High Court.

TSTT asked the court to find that it is neither owned nor controlled by the State and is not supported by government funds and therefore has no legal duty to reply to a freedom of information application.

Such an argument is legal sophistry at its highest. Ultimately, it did not find favour with the judge in the first instance, Justice David Harris.

We admit there are aspects of Justice Harris’s disposal of this matter that could be clearer. That, however, was no reason for TSTT to appeal a case which should never have been argued in the first place. (It has involved the services of senior counsel.)

If TSTT is not a public authority subject to state control, why is the Cabinet reviewing its operations? Why has the relevant line minister denied plans to “privatise” it?

Mr Armour must end this farce.


"TSTT farce"

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