March 5, 2021

Plot to replace trustees [of Caribbean Justice Trust Fund]

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1390243237From Trinidad Express

A power struggle is brewing among members of the board of trustees of the Caribbean Court of Justice Trust Fund (CCJTF) in the wake of Chief Justice Ivor Archie being defeated for the post of chairman.

Archie was beaten by former government minister Christine Sahadeo following the election of the board of trustees held on July 22, 2013.  One vote was the deciding factor.

The Sunday Express was told by sources that moves are now afoot to unseat chairman Dr Linton Lewis and Sahadeo six months after they were elected.   Archie  offered “no comment” on the move to unseat Lewis as did Sahadeo when contacted by the Sunday Express yesterday.

However, the Sunday Express learned that lobbying is now taking place to support the move to remove Lewis and Sahadeo. Both Lewis and Sahadeo were elected to their respective positions at the July 22 board meeting, replacing former chairman Dr Rollin Bertrand and vice chairman Gerry Brooks, who had both served since 2003. As trustees, Bertrand, who is also the chief officer of Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL), represents the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) while Brooks, the chief operating officer of the ANSA McAL Group, represents the Insurance Association of the Caribbean (IAC).  CJ’s nomination defeated Lewis, the Sunday Express learned, was nominated for the position of chairman by board member Oswald Barnes, while Bertrand nominated Brooks for the position.

Bertrand had originally intended to stand for re-election but suddenly had a change of mind and threw his support behind Brooks, sources said.  Bertrand’s nomination was seconded by Archie, who is also a member of the board.   Sahadeo and Archie vied for the position of vice chairman.  However, at the July 22 elections Lewis beat Brooks by one vote to become the new chairman of the CCJTF, while Sahadeo won the vice chairmanship. Bertrand and Brooks, the Sunday Express learned, had signalled their intention to resign from the board following the elections but both men have opted to stay on.   Lewis, a chartered accountant, and Sahadeo, an attorney and senior lecturer and deputy dean at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine are expected to serve for a three-year term.

The election of Lewis and Sahadeo remains a sticking point, sources said.  In fact, sources told the Sunday Express that even before Lewis and Sahadeo were elected, an attempt was made to pre-empt the election by way of a teleconference meeting of the board members that was expected to be held in the middle of May last year. The teleconference  was to be convened in an attempt to have both Bertrand and Brooks reappointed, sources said.  The Sunday Express learned that the issue of re-electing Bertrand and Brooks at the teleconference was brought to the attention of the CCJTF executive officer Glenn Cheong and the trustees but due to strong objections the teleconference was aborted, sources said.  The planned conference  came about as a result of concerns raised by Bertrand that politicians should not be allowed to serve on the board of trustees of the CCJTF, sources said.  Politicians free to serve on the CCJTF The US$100 million fund as outlined in Article III of the Agreement establishing the CCJTF had been set up to provide resources and the biennial capital and operating budget of the court and the commission in perpetuity.

Its purpose was to dissuade perception that judges may be inclined to deliver favourable judgments to governments and other interest groups in the Caribbean. Sahadeo was appointed a senator under the former People’s National Movement (PNM) administration from October 2002 to September 2007 during which time she served as Minister in the Ministry of Finance. Following the November 5, 2007 general election,  Sahadeo declined the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Marine Resources portfolio and opted to return to the corporate world. Lewis was also appointed a senator under the New Democratic Party (NDP) and serves in the Opposition in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Trustee Wilfred Abrahams is also a senator appointed under the Barbados Labour Party.

Bertrand, sources told the Sunday Express, openly expressed his disapproval of the selection of Lewis and Sahadeo to head the CCJTF as they were “politicians” and questioned whether the agreement establishing the CCJTF could be amended.  The CCJTF regulations does not prevent a person with political affiliation becoming a member of the board of trustees.  Prior to the election of Lewis and Sahadeo to the top posts, there were no known objections about politicians sitting on the board.  It is on this basis the teleconference was deemed unjustified.

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