The universal principle stipulates that the rules of evidence applicable to a court of law in litigation do not apply to Commissions of Inquiry, therefore, the “hearsay” evidence commonly rejected during a court proceeding would be valid in a CoI.
This is according to former Attorney General Anil Nandlall in response to President David Granger’s repudiation of the internationally acclaimed CoI Report into the death of Dr Walter Rodney.
President David Granger
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall
Dr Walter Rodney
President Granger, when drilled by the media February 24 on the report’s damning revelations, argued that the report is badly “flawed” since it was based on “hearsay” evidence.
“The Commission has varied from its mandate, accepted a lot of hearsay evidence and not given the Guyanese people what they deserve – that is to say what were the circumstances under which Dr Rodney acquired a certain device (and) how that device came to be detonated,” the President remarked.
However, Nandlall pointed out that CoIs are fact-finding missions which make them applicable to accept hearsay evidence which is inadmissible in Court.
In further proving his point, Nandlall quoted Canadian Justice William Riddell who had stated, “A Royal Commission is not for the purpose of trying a case or a charge against any one, any person or any institution – but for the purpose of informing the people concerning the facts of the matter to be inquired into. Information should be sought in every quarter available…
Everyone able to bring relevant facts before the Commission should be encouraged, should be urged, to do so.
Nor are the strict rules of evidence to be enforced; much that could not be admitted on a trial in Court may be the utmost assistance to the Commission…”
Also, Nandlall expressed is it quite striking that the President, even after cutting short the life of the CoI, would complain about the evidence provided.
“(He denied) the opportunity of hearing from witnesses who may have had vital information. Indeed, since it was his inquiry, President Granger had the glorious opportunity of ensuring that every witness whom he believes should have testified, be made available to do so. Unfortunately, he chose to shut down the inquiry instead. The President cannot approbate and reprobate on this matter,” Nandlall stated.
He explained that since the CoI was established by then President Donald Ramotar who is no longer in Office, the Constitution provides that the Commission will now become President Granger’s.
“This Inquiry was commissioned by His Excellency, President Donald Ramotar under the Commissions of Inquiry Act Ch 19:03. Section 3 of this Act provides that any commission established under the Act may be revoked by the President by a notification to that effect published in the Gazette. Section 4 states: “No commission issued under this Act shall lapse by reason of, or be otherwise affected by the death, absence, or removal of the President issuing the same”. When President Granger assumed office, he did not revoke this commission appointed by his predecessor. Therefore, by operation of Section 4, it became his commission,” he posited.
Against this backdrop, Nandlall contended that Granger will go down in history as perhaps the first President to reject the findings of his own CoI.
Responding to the President’s concerns about the monies exhausted behind the Inquiry, Nandlall asserted that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition had supported the approval of these monies all along.
“Every cent spent by the PPP/C Government towards this commission was done with the support of an APNU/AFC controlled National Assembly which rejected important Bills and cut national budgets,” he said.
Moreover, Nandlall lambasted the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Leadership for his attempt at discrediting the report.
“It appears that few in Government are the only persons on planet earth who seem to be shocked by the findings of this commission. To the intelligent mind apprised of the reality of those times, that Forbes Burnham masterminded a plot to kill Walter Rodney was always a foregone conclusion,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the President had also expressed his intention to challenge the findings of the report.
“We intend to challenge it. We intend to challenge the findings of the Report and the circumstances under which that Report was conducted,” Granger told the media.
To this end, Nandlall pondered how exactly the President plans to do this.