Transcripts refute Clifford

Commission of Enquiry Transcripts released on Friday of the proceedings of the ongoing Commission of Enquiry refute claims made by the attorneys for Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford regarding the confidentiality of government papers he gave to the media.

In a statement issued 25 January by Ritch & Conolly on behalf of Mr. Clifford, it was suggested the manner in which certain questions were asked during the proceedings may have led to confusion in the media.

The Caymanian Compass and other news media reported on 25 January that Mr. Clifford acknowledged the papers he gave to Cayman Net News publisher Desmond Seales were confidential.

Mr. Clifford’s attorneys did not agree with the media’s assessment.

‘Mr. Clifford has always said that he did take papers from his office, but that they were his papers and in any event they were not confidential or did not contain confidential information and by the time he did reveal some of those papers, the information they contained was in the public domain,’ the statement said.

‘It has been reported that Mr. Clifford has said that certain papers he took were confidential, but that is not correct and we will have to look at the transcripts once they have been approved…’

The transcripts released Friday indicate the media had reasonably reported what was said, as is indicated in the following section of verbatim transcript that starts with commission legal assessor Andrew Jones asking Mr. Clifford an academic question.

Mr Jones: …Assuming you are right that a director of one of these boards is entitled to keep and take with him when he resigns his own set of board minutes and supporting documents, do you agree that he is still only entitled to use his set for proper purposes in the interest of the company of board of which he is a director?

Mr Clifford: I believe that to be the case in the normal process of things, but the circumstances in these cases I think that changes the…

Mr Jones: I understand what you say about that, but in the ordinary course, a retired director is only entitled to use board minutes and documentation for the purposes of the company and in the interest of the company in taking those documents in the first place?

Mr Clifford: I think I can confirm that I had that correct.

Although Mr. Jones was asking questions of an academic nature, Commissioner of the Enquiry Sir Richard Tucker then took over the questioning and turned to the specific allegations pertaining to Mr. Clifford.

Sir Richard: Mr Clifford until you revealed the papers to Mr Seales, do you agree that they were not in the public domain?

Mr Clifford: The papers may not have been in the public domain, but the information was.

Sir Richard: I put it to you expressly: These papers, until you revealed them to Mr Seales, were not in the public domain, were they?

Mr Clifford: That is correct, sir

Sir Richard: And do you agree that they were only in your possession in order that you could use them in the interest of the Government?

Mr Clifford: As I [said] earlier that… would be in the normal process of things except that there were circumstances indeed that I felt that justified taking further action.

Sir Richard: All right, and you say it was for the purpose of the Government no doubt. But in the sense that I have outlined to you, and I think that you have accepted, do you agree that they were confidential papers?

Mr Clifford: I think they were at that time.

Ex-Governor’s statement also damaging

Mr. Clifford’s stated justification for giving Mr. Seales the government papers has been that former Governor Bruce Dinwiddy refused to take any action when Mr. Clifford expressed concerns to him about the actions of former Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush with regard to the proposed West Bay cruise terminal and the Boatswain’s Beach projects.

Mr. Dinwiddy provided the Commission of Enquiry with a written statement in December that was made public last week. In that statement, Mr. Dinwiddy acknowledged he was aware of Mr. Clifford’s misgivings about Mr. Bush’s intervention into the affairs of the Department of Tourism and the Boggy Sand Road project, and that he was also aware of ‘wider concerns in political and senior official circles’ about Mr. Bush’s close involvement in the Royal Watler project, Cayman Airways and the Turtle Farm project.

However, Mr. Dinwiddy said he had ‘no memory of Mr. Clifford raising such concerns with me in terms – for example by giving evidence of specific wrongdoing – which called for my direct intervention, whether with Mr Bush or in any other way.’

Mr. Dinwiddy also did not agree with Mr. Clifford’s reasoning for giving Mr. Seales the papers.

‘I could not agree to any suggestion that absence of support from me could have justified Mr. Clifford in passing documents – such as I believe he never brought to my own attention – to the media.’

When cross-examined by attorney Anthony Akiwumi, who represents Mr. Bush in the Commission of Enquiry proceedings, Mr. Clifford said that he had met with Mr. Dinwiddy in the latter’s office to discuss the Turtle Farm project and the Port Authority dealings on more than one occasion.

‘It would have been more than one discussion, but not all the concerns were raised at the same meeting,’ Mr. Clifford stated.

In his responses to Mr. Akiwumi, Mr. Clifford said he asked for some of the meetings with the Governor.

‘I think in relation to Turtle Farm I requested that meeting and I believe, but I cannot be sure, but in relation to the Port Authority it may have been the Governor that asked for it in that matter.’

However, Mr. Clifford acknowledged that he did not keep any notes of the meetings and that none of Mr. Dinwiddy’s assistants were present at the meetings.