Key witnesses expected to testify at the Commission of Enquiry into the Alexandra School have missed an announced deadline for submission of statements, prompting concern from the head of the tribunal and lawyers representing Principal Jeff Broomes.
The issue became a topic of discussion today when the body, headed by Commissioner Frederick Waterman met at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.
Broomes’ counsel at the enquiry, Vernon Smith and Cecil McCarthy, wanted to know why senior teacher Amaida Greaves had not yet submitted her statement.
Additionally, Waterman said there was a need for a statement from Barbados Secondary Teachers Union President Mary Redman to be presented, noting that BSTU consultant Patrick Frost had submitted his recently.
“I can’t remember the exact date, but I remember making an announcement in here that all witness statements should be in by the 16 of July. That is what I would have said in here and some witnesses left the island and some of them are now back and I will speak to them when they come here,” the commissioner said.
He noted too that “even this morning I was thinking of sending a summons specifically to certain witnesses”, rather than relying them to act voluntarily.
“The investigator has spoken to some of the witnesses and so far they all turned up at the times stipulated by the investigator,” Waterman said.
“We have been trying weeks since the commission started to get a witness statement from Miss Redman and she hasn’t come up with one.”
The commission’s senior counsel Milton Pierce said once witness statements were made available to him he would make sure all counsel had copies.
“We have a situation where Mrs. … Greaves was out of the island, we required a statement from her, she is back and up to now the statement has not been submitted,” he said.
“All of the witness statements, as far as I am aware, come through me and they are then circulated to counsel so if they do not reach me I cannot circulate them to counsel.
“I have already set down the witnesses for next week, and the witnesses who I have set down for next week I have their statements and their statements have been circulated.”
Smith said not having statements in hand was “very prejudicial” to Broomes since “there are relevant things in those statements that we would have to put to the other witnesses”.
“I think it would be a great inconvenience for the commission to have to call back witnesses for them to be examined,” he said.
BSTU counsel Hall Gollop said he had done his best to make all individuals aware that their witness statements were “absolutely necessary” for the commission to do its work.
“I will, Sir, use my best offices to try to see that the work of the commission is not held up. I don’t think we can cast any blame on anybody because we have been moving quite smoothly, but I do appreciate my friends complaint that they must have the statements beforehand to protect their client’s interest and that’s a very reasonable request,” he told the commissioner.
Smith pointed out that under the legislation governing the commission, that body could summon witnesses and if they didn’t show up hold them in contempt and sanction the action with imprisonment.
He suggested the tribunal should summon Greaves.
Gollop asked: “You want to lock her up now too?”.
“Lock her up,” Smith quipped. The enquiry has been adjourned until Monday morning at 9:30. (SC)