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The Problem With Probing Penner
Wed, May 17, 2017

So, with all that antics aside, we turn now the real business of the day. Elvin Penner was called back to take a few more questions from the Senate on the part of the Auditor General's report for which he was named.

More specifically, however, the Senators wanted to take a second attempt to get him to answer to the Citizen Kim scandal. Last week, we showed you how how he tried to claim rights and privileges in the constitution which he said excused him from taking their questions.

Well, as soon as the hearing opened today, he gave a few prepared remarks adding that he is not going to answer any loaded questions which he thinks are aimed at scoring political points against the UDP Government. Here's that back and forth:

Elvin Penner - Former Immigration Minister
"Responses during last week sessions were I exercised my right to remain silent on a case to case basis with regards to certain question, this right is to addition to whether I am or am not exposed to further penalties section 14:1 of the very law governing these proceedings. The legislative assembly and powers privilege states that I have the same rights and privilege as before a court of law. Everyone is aware of the inherit right of any accused even in case of accused murders to remain silent throughout an entire trail if he or she wishes and he or she cannot be penalized for that."

Hon. Aldo Salazar - Chairman, Senate Select Committee
"On the last occasion you said because of the exposure of the previous matters you would not answer questions related to those matters which I could not understand with legal principle behind that so you're changing that now, you're saying that the constitution affords you the right to not say anything?"

Elvin Penner
"I am indeed indicating that the constitution does afford me to not say anything."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"Where in the constitution affords you that right?"

Elvin Penner
"I don't have a copy of that section of the constitution with me, I don't recall exactly what the constitution read but that is my understanding and that is why I'm stating that today."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay - PUP Senator
"I just want to get Mr. Penner clear saying that the constitution affords you a right to now answer questions put by this committee to you without giving a reason?"

Elvin Penner
"Well I am giving the reason to the best of my knowledge at this point in time."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"Which is what that the constitution says so?"

Elvin Penner
"That the constitution says so."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"That you can just remain quite?"

Elvin Penner
"Yes."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"There is no section in the constitution that says that. I am asking that Mr. Penner identify the specific section of the constitution that he is saying gives him the right to not answer a question without giving us a reason because there is none and we need to know right now whether Mr. Penner is going to disrespect this committee."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"You are relying on appropriate legal principles but in an inappropriate way, I say that with respect. This does not say that a witness or a person before a court does not have to answer - a compellable witness. At this point you are a compellable witness because you have been summoned to be here. This section which you relied upon erroneously does not say that you have to answer any questions it says that the question put to a witness which in the opinion of the judge may expose him to criminal proceedings or penalty if the judge deems fit that person can be excused from giving an answer. So it doesn't give that blanket protection that I told you about on the last occasion, likewise I think that you are also a bit misguided when you put yourself in the position of an accused, when you use this same section 13 and say that an accused is not forced to say anything, now that is in the constitution but if you are a person before a court it doesn't mean that you are an accused. Witnesses also appear before a court so you are in the position as a witness before a court not an accused."

Elvin Penner
"It is my opinion that even though Senator Courtenay
was fully aware of the questions in regards to cabinet discussions were perhaps not legally permissible in this setting, he never the less proceeded to pose them, one can therefore only speculate as to the true motives in this particular line of questioning therefore begs the question what's the senator's intent on casting aspersions on the current administration instead of actually filly the terms of reference of this committee. It is my further opinion that Senator Courtenay has really proven to me and to the vast majority of the listening public that this hearing has become a platform for him, a political platform not only to undermined and discredit past and present ministers of the UDP administration but also to do likewise to career public officers, I believe that he's also making every effort to represent his party in this senate to the best of his ability. Let the record show that I do not intend to answer any further questions which in my view are posed with over political biased. Please bear in mind always that I freely accepted the invitation to appear before this committee with the sole intention to assist in the fulfilment of its noble role. During last week's sessions I was also asked a question by Senator Courtenay implying that I wrote hundreds of recommendations, I'm sought clarity to this statement at the time knowing that for a fact I did no such thing, I'm absolutely sure that of all the letters of recommendations signed by me would be collected, it would amount to nothing to 100. I am hence again willing and ready to provide answers to any questions put to me today as long as I am convinced that the questions are legally permissible, relevant to the special report of the Auditor General and where I am legally required to ask such questions. This position is far more open than my legal right to remain silent throughout this whole proceeding with no fear of any penalty, thank you."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"Senator Courtenay you had questions for Mr. Penner?"

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"I had but I guess I will get a lashing this morning from my daddy. Mr. Penner you're paying attention or are you texting? Let me just say something to you right for the record. Nothing that you said just now frightens me or will change the questions I have for you, alright? You know why I am here, you know why you are here and as long as we keep that in mind we won't be here for too long but believe me I will ask you the questions that I have because you were the one who was volunteering all along that you wanted to come here and tell this senate committee all that you know about the scandal of the immigration department. All of a sudden for some reason you are now coming up with reasons why you do not wish to answer questions. I have some questions for you and I hope that good sense will prevail and you will answer them."

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