Skelton Cline told the Commissioner, Sir Gary Hickinbottom, in an extensive back-and-forth exercise that the COI was “going to feel some resistance” in response to any questions that were posed to him (Skelton Cline) on the matter.
Skelton Cline was contracted by various administrations over the years as a contractor in several projects that were seen through various Auditor General’s reports as offering negligible or no value-for-money to the government and taxpayers of the BVI.
Pointing to any and all questions about government contracts he held through his private businesses, the clergyman said: “I, Claude Skelton Cline, am not willing to participate in that,” Cline told the COI.
Skelton Cline, who rarely allowed the Commissioner or his attorney, Bilal Rawat, to get off any questions at the start of his appearance, told the COI that he is a private citizen and claimed that he was being targeted and singled out.
He also asserted — incorrectly, as pointed out by the Commissioner — that he was the only private citizen brought before the COI. Others such as Steve Augustine who was contracted to work on the high school wall project have also appeared.
According to Skelton Cline, being a private citizen and clergyman in the community, as opposed to a public official, meant he should not be faced with questions in the public domain.
He denied being involved in any illegal activities, concoctions or kickbacks with any governments and said he was passionate about how he felt.
“It feels like theatre, it feels like a public lynching,” the outspoken clergyman and talk show host said.
He further told the COI that the best forum for him to be of assistance would be in a “private sitting” somewhere.
Though Skelton Cline admitted to having never read any of the criticisms directed at him in the Auditor General’s report on the partnership project, the clergyman said he was not in agreement with them, arguing that they were incomplete and filled with innuendo.
“I disagree with the entire report because the entire report is based on incomplete information,” Skelton Cline stated.
Sir Gary told the clergyman that he could not be in a position to refute a report that he had not read.
But Skelton Cline said he had heard criticisms made about him in the public. “I have heard with my own ears in the testimony from the Auditor General, Mr Commissioner,” Skelton Cline stated.
Sir Gary in response said: “It would have been better if you had read the report with your own eyes. We’re not here to have a sort of broad debate and it would be helpful to me if you would answer the questions, which through, Mr Rawat I’m going to put to you.”
Skelton Cline’s evidence continues before the COI today. His position to be “resistant” to the COI seemingly softened as the hearing progressed.