Parliament last night approved the notification for nominees Raomar Achat-Saney and Dr James Armstrong to be appointed to the Police Service Commission (PSC), despite position People’s National Movement (PNM) concerns about their suitability and calls for Government to withdraw the two nominees.
Division of opinion arose between Government and Opposition in yesterday’s Lower House debate on a motion to approve Achat-Saney and Armstrong, who were nominated by President Anthony Carmona along with Martin George and Addison Khan. George and Khan were first appointed to the PSC in 2010.
The motion was the first order of business when Parliament resumed after its last session on September 27 and subsequent break for two elections. The motion required a simple majority for passage. Of Government’s 27 MPs, three were away, as were three PNM MPs. While Government mounted support for the nominees, including Achat-Saney and Armstrong, the PNM outlined its concerns on the latter and called for Government to withdraw Achat-Saney and Armstrong’s nomination.
“It’s nothing personal against Mrs Achat-Saney or Dr Armstrong but we are not sufficiently satisfied they meet the requisite stipulations of the Constitution to be appointed to the PSC and their suitability should be re-examined,” PNM MP Donna Cox had said of the two nominees When debate concluded at 7.15 pm, the 21 Government MPs present voted for the four PSC nominees.
But while all eight Opposition PNM MPs present voted in favour of the nominations for George and Khan, all of them abstained from voting on the nominations for Achat-Saney and Armstrong. The nominations were therefore approved as a result of the Government’s 21 majority votes. When debate began, PP House Leader Roodal Moonilal, who piloted debate, had outlined extensive credentials of all four nominees. He said the PSC would continue under the chairmanship of Dr Ramesh Deosaran.
He said George and Khan would bring a wealth of experience to the body consistent with requirements of the law and would provide the legal expertise required for such an important entity. He said Achat-Saney was an attorney with a list of academic credentials and achievements not only in the area of law but also in education, management and social sciences.
Moonilal said: “It’s our belief this nominee can provide an invaluable skill set to the PSC’s work by virtue of the extensive experience, the practical world of management and by virtue of qualification in law.” He said Achat-Saney was attached to a law firm, then later said she was in her own private practice with her son.
On former Independent senator Armstrong, Moonilal said: “Dr Armstrong carries an enormous breadth of experience and skill set based upon his academic qualifications and brings to the table a huge breadth of cross disciplinary skills involving management, finance, policy programming and implementation and management of sophisticated programmes.
“He is an acclaimed writer, received significant awards for his academic work, had tremendous experience in management of financial resources associated with the United Nations system and their work.”
Moonilal added: “When one looks collectively at the nominees presented by the President, one would note their various spheres of expertise, education and experience are really aligned with some of the challenges faced at the level of service commissions and at the level of the police where what is required is extensive experience in management.” Moonilal noted the disciplines for the PSC cited in Section 122 (3) of the Constitution, which he said were “law, finance, sociology or management.”
He added: “It’s very clear this group of persons possesses the experience and qualifications and for the first time we have nominees who bring a breadth of skills across disciplines, after (years of) a monolithic approach.”