KINGSTON — The FINSAC Commission of Enquiry has rejected the request for the appearance of former Prime Minister, the Most Hon P.J. Patterson, but has written former Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Karl Blythe, asking his participation.
Both requests were made by attorney Anthony Levy, who represents Thermo Plastics Jamaica Limited/Plas Pak former managing director, Jean Michael Desulme.
Chairman of the Commission, Worrick Bogle, told Tuesday’s (June 21) sitting that the Commission had written Dr. Blythe, asking him to appear. This follows recent statements in the media which indicated that he could shed some light on the 1990s financial sector meltdown and the activities of the Government owned Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) in the recovery efforts, the issues the commission is probing.
In mid-May, Dr. Blythe urged Mr.Patterson and former Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Omar Davies, to accept responsibility for the role that the Government they formed in the 1990s played in the financial sector meltdown, and chided the then administration for maintaining, for too long, a high interest rate policy that crippled many businesses.
"With the Commission of Enquiry now underway, it appears as if everyone is blaming everybody else, except themselves, and I am surprised that the Government, of which I was a part, seems to be following the same path, instead of taking responsibility for its role in the crisis," Dr. Blythe said in a statement
But, Mr. Bogle said that the Commission did not see any need to call Mr. Patterson, as there were documents which could provide the information which the former Prime Minister would be asked about. Mr. Levy suggested that the decision was “very shortsighted”.
Attorney for the Jamaica Redevelopment Foundation, Sandra Minott-Phillips, however, found the Commissioner’s ruling odd and, in a rare act of agreement with Mr. Levy, said that she could not see the need to call Dr. Blythe, and not the former Prime Minister, a Minister of Finance.
Mr. Levy added that it was Mr. Patterson’s decision to liberalize the foreign exchange system, which triggered the process leading to the fiscal meltdown.
However, Mr. Bogle insisted, “we do feel that we have enough information”. He said that not calling the witnesses proposed by Mr. Levy would not detract from the commission’s work.
Mr. Levy also sought the appearance of FINSAC’s first chairman, Dr. Glastone Bonnick, and first Managing Director, Dennis Boothe. But, the Commission also denied those requests.
Mr. Bogle noted that Dr. Bonnick was living abroad and there were papers written by him, including one titled, “Storm In a Teacup”, which he felt would provide the commission with his views about the establishment of FINSAC under his watch.
The enquiry started another lengthy break yesterday. Mr. Bogle said that following the postponement of Wednesday’s reappearance by current general manager of FINSAC, Errol Campbell, they would not meet again until July 4, when Mr. Campbell will be the witness. This was attributed to the death of the mother of the commission’s secretary, Fernando Deperalto. The commission ended a previous two-week break on Tuesday.
Asked by Mrs. Minott-Phillips when the enquiry was likely to end, Mr. Bogle said they were hoping to end by mid-July.
By Balford Henry, JIS Reporter