Paria enquiry chair warns witnesses: Don't watch other evidence

Chairman of the CoE, Jerome Lynch KC  - Photo by Angelo Marcelle
Chairman of the CoE, Jerome Lynch KC - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

PARIA Commission of Enquiry (CoE) chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, has warned lawyers, witnesses and other people involved in the enquiry that he will not condone any attempt by anyone to undermine its integrity.

Lynch issued this warning during an evidentiary hearing of the CoE at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre on Thursday.

Paria Trading Fuel Company Ltd lead counsel Gilbert Peterson, SC, alerted Lynch that three witnesses for Land and Marine Construction Services Ltd (LMCS) were together in a room watching the live testimony of another LMCS witness, Dexter Guerra, on their cellphones.

This revelation caused Lynch to bring a halt to Guerra's cross-examination by Peterson so that the matter could be investigated.

On the resumption of the hearing, Lynch said he did not have the power to stop anyone from watching the live proceedings of the enquiry, either on television or online.

But he added, "I expect counsel (for all parties) to advise the people that they represent, and therefore the witnesses that have been called by this commission, not to view the proceedings."

Lynch said such a situation violates the rules outlined by the commission before the start of its evidentiary hearings.

"I regard it as a contempt. I am not going to take any action in pursuit of that contempt (by LMCS witnesses) today."

But should such an act be repeated in future, he said, "I make it absolutely clear. I have considerable powers to do so (take action against offenders) and I will use them."

He was determined not to have the enquiry "thwarted by people deliberately flouting the obvious and plain rules that exist in order to preserve the integrity of this enquiry."

Lynch said he was "very disappointed that anyone should feel the need to do that."

The three witnesses had their cellphones taken away from them and were put in separate rooms in Tower D, with no means of communicating with anyone or having any idea of what was happening in the hearing,

Lynch lamented their lack of maturity:"What am I dealing with? Children? They will wait there until I am ready to hear them give their evidence."

Lynch apologised to Guerra as he sat in the witness box. When Guerra concluded his testimony, Lynch told him to leave the premises immediately and not speak to anyone about what he had just told the commission.

Kazim Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar and Christopher Boodram were doing routine maintenance on a 30-inch pipeline at Berth 6, belonging to Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd, at Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25 when they were sucked into it.

They were all LMCS employees. Only Boodram survived.


"Paria enquiry chair warns witnesses: Don’t watch other evidence"

More in this section