Govt stands its ground: PSC nominations

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Story Created: Nov 13, 2013 at 11:29 PM ECT

Story Updated: Nov 14, 2013 at 9:48 PM ECT

In the face of objections from the People’s National Movement (PNM) and Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner, the Government stood its ground and supported the nominations of Dr James Armstrong and Raomar Achat-Saney to the Police Service Commission (PSC) yesterday.

The Parliament approved the presidential notification of these two nominations with 21 votes for and eight abstentions. The other two nominations—Martin George and Eddison Khan—were unanimously approved.
The Government’s case was vociferously argued by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.
Ramlogan waded into the PNM for its “political hypocrisy”, stating while the PNM government defended the presidential appointment of Selwyn Cudjoe, a professor of literature, to the Central Bank during its tenure in office, it was now objecting to the appointment of Armstrong and Achat-Saney on the grounds of suitability.
The Attorney General reminded the House he had fought this case for the Maha Sabha, which had sought to challenge the appointment of Cudjoe by the President (then George Maxwell Richards) to the Central Bank board. Ramlogan recalled the law required people sitting on the Central Bank board to be versed in finance, economics, accounting, management and administration.
He said it was doubtful whether Cudjoe met the statutory criteria because his qualifications as a professor of literature were, at first blush, not relevant to fiscal and monetary policy.
Ramlogan said the court, nevertheless, ruled in Cudjoe’s and the Central Bank’s favour.
Ramlogan yesterday heavily criticised the former PNM government for making such an appointment. He disclosed for the first time that the Central Bank had to fly in Cudjoe first-class to attend every board meeting and sub-committee meeting of the bank.
He said taxpayers’ money was “wasted” on flying in Cudjoe, who was not any international economist or financial expert, for every meeting, while there were many other people who were qualified in the areas prescribed in the law (finance, etc), who were resident in the country.
The Attorney General also pointed out that Section 122 of the Constitution required the President to nominate people to the PSC in his own judgment and discretion after consultation with the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.
He stressed therefore that the nominees brought to the House for approval were not Government nominees, but presidential nominees. Hence the Parliament should be very cautious in rejecting nominees proposed by the Head of State, he said.
He said the Parliament should not reject the nominees if there was clear justification beyond any reasonable doubt.
Ramlogan said there were different ways to interpret Section 122 of the Constitution and President Anthony Carmona would have obtained independent legal advice on the issues raised in the Karl Hudson Phillips letter. The Attorney General said the fact that the President proceeded with these nominees, notwithstanding the concerns raised in the Hudson-Phillips letter, must not be easily overlooked.
The Attorney General said the law did not require qualification and expertise in any of the disciplines mentioned in the Constitution (law, management, sociology and finance). He said the law required a combination of the right blend of qualification and experience.
He jokingly referred to newly elected MP Terrence Deyalsingh, who is a qualified pharmacist but has experience in administration.
Speaking earlier, Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal, in piloting the motion, said it was commendable that “for the first time in a long time, we have nominees who bring a breadth of skills across disciplines. For a long time, we have had this monolithic approach to disciplines, where when we offer candidates and nominees we provide in a strait-jacketed and pigeon-holed way the discipline required.
“So we provide someone with law, but we don’t understand the integrated skill set required to manage complex bureaucratic institutions. We do not take in consideration the breadth of expertise and experience that is required, not only in the area that you are qualified in, but in other areas as well”.
He said there were prominent businessmen who pioneered the Trinidad and Tobago and Carib­bean private sector, but they were not quali­fied in the area of management or business studies.
“They may not have the certification, but they certainly have the expertise and achievement,” he said.
He said the PSC nominees brought a similar record of service and achievement.
He cited in the House Dr Tim Gopeesingh, whose training and expertise was in medicine, but who also had a management degree from the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business.

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