Thursday 1st June, 2006


TATT sends Prince on leave

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Dr John Prince

The board of the Telecommunications Authority (TATT) has asked its executive director Dr John Prince, an internationally-recognised expert in telecom regulation, to proceed on vacation leave because of dissatisfaction with his conduct.

The decision was taken on Monday night at a special board meeting which convened at TATT’s San Juan offices.

Yesterday, TATT chairman Khalid Hassanali informed Prince of the decision and asked him to proceed on leave “until further notice.”

The deputy executive director, Cris Seecharan, will act for Prince during his absence.

“There are compelling reasons for this decision. Dr Prince had some leave inside and we asked him to proceed on that,” said Hassanali.

He said the board had confidence in Seecharan’s ability to manage TATT’s affairs.

Prince, a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Administration and Information was on secondment to the International Telecommunications Union when he applied for the post of the executive director of TATT.

He was given a five-year contract by then chairman, Dr Ralph Henry after issues with salary negotiations were sorted.

The Guardian understands that the TATT board was upset by a letter from Prince to the then potential telecommunication providers indicating a date of November 30, 2005 for interconnection.

A source said Hassanali told the board meeting that “the letter has caused TATT to be placed in a perilous position given the litigious nature of the parties in the industry.”

Physical interconnection between TSTT and Digicel took place at the end of March and Digicel started offering its mobile service to the public on April 6. The third concessionaire, Laqtel, has experienced some financial problems and has not yet started operations.

Hassanali also complained to the board that Prince had caused the Authority to be “tainted with prejudice” because of statements the executive director made that cost-based interconnection rates are necessarily symmetrical and reciprocal. Hassanali said this was an issue before the arbitration panel, which was set up by TATT to hear a dispute on interconnection.

A complaint was also leveled that a statement that Prince made, reported in the Guardian of April 6, aggravated the problem of perceived bias.

The Guardian understands that Prince refuted the allegations against him in a 12-page reply to Hasannali’s charges and that he is considering his legal options.

Sources also disclosed that Prince’s reply contains a long list of the Authority’s achievements in its 22 months in operation.

Apart from Hassanali, among directors at Monday’s meeting were Gillian Bishop, Cagney Casimire, Ronald Ramkissoon, Learie-Alleyne-Forte, Beverley Beckles and Wayne Nakhid, a source said.

Prince, a board member, was not at the meeting and when contacted declined to say whether he had been invited.

Asked whether he had been asked to proceed on leave, Prince declined to comment.

Instead, he said, “I have travelled to between 60 and 70 countries around the globe advising governments on regulatory issues involving telecoms. Nothing surprises me.”

The Government decided not to renew the two-year term of former TATT chairman economist Dr Ralph Henry. UWI telecom expert Dr Kim Mallalieu, a TATT director when the board was first appointed in July 2004, also did not have her term renewed.

— Reporting by Asha Javeed




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