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T&T minister appeals FOIA ruling, Afra Raymond vows to fight on

T&T Finance Minister Larry HowaiTrinidad and Tobago's minister of finance said this week he'll appeal a high court order requiring him to publish details about the bailout of a private company that might have cost taxpayers up to $25 billion.

In comments Tuesday to the FCPA Blog, anti-corruption activist Afra Raymond said, "Well, this is the usual practice, in which the public right to know is subordinated to private, undisclosed interests."

Raymond first requested documents about the bailout of CL Financial under Trinidad and Tobago's Freedom of Information Act in May 2012.

The minister of finance refused, and in April 2013 Raymond asked for a court review.

Last month, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh ruled the ministry must disclose any list of creditors of CL Financial who benefited from the government bailout.

The Trinidad and Tobago Constitution Reform Forum, a public watchdog, called on the finance minister to honor the court decision and not launch any appeals.

The group said appeals would waste public money and demonstrate a “lack of commitment by the government to the spirit and intent of the Freedom of Information Act."

But Minister Larry Howai said this week that the high court order "constitutes unreasonable disclosure of personal information of third parties without notification to such third parties."

Howai said "the primary objective of the appeal is to ensure that . . we guard the best interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago . . . and protect the privacy and rights to confidentiality of citizens."

Raymond called the minister's arguments a "shroud" over "the entire indecent affair . . . intended to wear me down and let the issue fade from collective memory."

The finance minister's statement announcing the appeal said the "government operates by the principle of accountability to the citizens."

Raymond said, "What we have here is the ultimate collapse of our Republic by public officials who are sworn to uphold the public interest without fear or favor, but end up exposed as serving the toxic interests of the financial robber barons."

"I am continuing to fight this very hard," Raymond said.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.