Peter D. Chiquot, the former Comptroller of Customs at the center of the dispute regarding the detention and seizure of a Range Rover imported by former High Commissioner Dr. Ernest Hilaire has broken his silence on the matter.
Chiquot, who said he was providing clarity to the Saint Lucian public and dispelling the rumors and misinformation in the press and social media on the matter, apologised for not making a statement earlier saying that this was due to the provisions of Section 4.11, 4.12 and 4.13 of the Staff Orders.
“As a responsible and law abiding Civil Servant, shortly after lodging the three matters against Dr. Ernest Hilaire, in the Magistrates Court in October 2021, for failing to comply with the lawful directive from the Comptroller of Customs, under Section 102 of the Customs (Control and Management) Act., Caps 15.05 of 2017, a verbal request was made in a discussion with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance to respond to the many statements made and attacks on my integrity by Dr. Ernest Hilaire and his Comrades in the media,” Chiquot stated.
He said he was reminded of the provisions of the Staff Orders and was told to refrain from making any statements until the necessary permission is given.
“So I complied and did not make that statement. However, the maligning, threats and abuse continued unabated, since the persons making the statements, being non-public servants were not bound by the laws or rules. Realizing the persistent logorrheads by these individuals, especially due to the unprecedented move to withdraw the matters against Dr. Ernest Hilaire and the return of the vehicle to him, I was forced to write officially to the PS Finance for the necessary clearance to address this matter publicly and to use the documents and information in my possession in preparation for my defense against the continued suit by Dr. Ernest Hilaire,” Chiquot explained.
He added that in a written response from the PS Finance, he was informed that he should await a final response on the provisions of the Staff Orders due to ongoing consultations with the PS Public Service, Cabinet Secretary and the same Attorney General, Mr. Leslie Mondesir, whom he had also written on two occasions, the first on December 8, 2021, with a deadline of December 20, 2021 and then on December 24, 2021, with a deadline of December 30, 2021, asking for clarification from his office or his legal counsel, since in both matters against the Comptroller of Customs and himself, they were represented by the Attorney General’s Chambers.
“To date, I have not received any written response from his office and based on the provisions of Chapter 1, Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, Section 1 (a) Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Constitution of St. Lucia, which gives me the right to equality before the law and the protection of the law, I have consulted with my private attorney in preparation for the defense, due to the silence of the Attorney General on his office’s position,” Chiquot stated.
The former Comptroller of Customs said he will not publish any document as yet and will wait for the necessary authorization before doing so.
According to him the Attorney General was obligated to continue providing legal counsel for him in the performance of his duty under Section 119 and 120 of the Customs (Control and Management) Act, Caps 15.05 of 2017.
“It is important that Mr. Leslie Mondesir state his office’s position on the continuation or dis-continuation of representation for the matter against me, in light of the withdrawal by Dr. Ernest Hilaire and his legal team, against the Comptroller of Customs in exchange for the withdrawal of the three matters against him. Having said that, there are some questions that must be asked to all involved to get a full understanding of this situation, especially the Attorney General himself as well as Dr. Ernest Hilaire and his legal team, which included Mr. Leslie Mondesir, to Mr. Leslie Mondesir, Attorney General,” stated Chiquot.
One of the eleven questions Chiquot posed to the Attorney general was: “While at the mediation of June 28, 2021, what agreement was arrived at between the Customs Department and Dr. Ernest Hilaire, represented by yourself and Mr. Thaddeus Antoine in the presence of the mediator?
Chiquot also has questions for the Director of Public Prosecution a couple of which are: Was your office informed about the mediation of December 1, 2021? (2) Was there any discussion with the current Comptroller of Customs on the withdrawal of the matter? (3) Did anyone from your office attend the mediation session with the current Comptroller? (4) Did your office provide any guidance to the Comptroller to withdraw these matters?
“I want to inform the public that I am prepared to steer the course to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and to ensure that law abiding public servants, who genuinely give their lives to service to the Country are not trampled upon or abused. It is against my conscience to allow the laws of the Country to be exploited and abused, by anyone… because no individual is above the law,” Chiquot stated.
He called on hard-working public servants to stand up against corruption in the service to ensure equality and fairness for each and every citizen of Saint Lucia.