Cox warns: PSC picks may lead to legal challenges

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Story Created: Nov 13, 2013 at 11:33 PM ECT

Story Updated: Nov 14, 2013 at 9:47 PM ECT

Be prepared for legal challenges to the Police Service Commission (PSC) with the appointments of Dr James Armstrong and Rao­mar Achat-Saney.
This was the warning given by People’s National Movement (PNM) Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox as she contributed to the debate on the motion to approve the nominations of four people to the PSC in the House of Representatives yesterday.
Those nominated by the President are Martin George, Addison Khan, Achat-San­ey and Armstrong. The PNM MP said while the Opposition had nothing personal against Armstrong and Achat-Saney, they lacked the specific expertise and qualifications set out in the Constitution for this appointment.
“If Government goes through with this motion (thereby confirming these appointments), it will be to the detriment of Trinidad and Tobago. The commission could set about to deal with a matter and one can say, ‘I don’t recognise you because you are not properly constituted.’
“And this can cause a lot of problems because we can open ourselves to judicial review and constitutional motions aimed at challenging these (two) appointments. At the end of the day, it is taxpayers’ money that would be jumping up here when persons decide (and adopting the position) that, ‘I am not taking on what you (the PSC) have to say because of the fact that the appointments to this commission are unconstitutional.’ So at the end of the day, it is the Attorney General’s gang of five who will benefit again,” Cox stated.
She said the PSC should be free from obvious legal challenges. “When making appointments under the Constitution, nothing must be left to chance,” she said.
She said every time there is a legal challenge, it brings the constitution­al arrangements into disrepute. Cox cited a letter to the Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan, written by prominent Queen’s Counsel Karl Hudson-Phillips, who had represented the concerns of former diplomat Reginald Dumas about the nomination of Armstrong and Achat-Saney.
The letter stated if these nominations were approved, Dumas would take “such steps” as he is advised to, to ensure compliance with Section 122 (3) of the Constitution, which states the requirements for appointment to the PSC.
“Both Mrs Achat-Saney and Dr Armstrong are highly qualified individuals. Regrettably, they do not meet the constitutional requirements to be appointed to the Police Service Commission,” Cox stated.
Cox said while Achat-Saney, a former principal, was qualified in law, she lacked legal experience because she was only called to the Bar one year ago. An experienced lawyer should have a minimum of five years experience, the PNM MP stated. She said Achat-Saney’s management skills came via a diploma in school management and leadership.
Cox said when one looked at Armstrong’s CV, there was “probable experience” in manage­ment but not formal experience in management. The Laventille East/Morvant MP stated while she was “highly impressed with the resume of Achat-Saney and Armstrong, “something was lacking. Something does not fit”.
Cox said when one considered the CVs of the two persons who were on the commission before (Deborah Cheeseman and Kenneth Par­ker), one met the management requirement while the other met the requirements for management and finance expertise.
She said those individuals were responsible for the appraisal and assessment exercise for the Commissioner of Police and Deputy CoPs. “Those two expertise (management and finance) are so critical in the PSC and they are now missing,” Cox said.
She said the PSC has a critical role. It moni­tors the efficiency and effectiveness of the PSC, prepares appraisal reports on the work of the executive, hearing and determining appeals by police officers, appointing commissioner s and deputy commissioners of police and acting CoPs and dismissing CoPs and deputy CoPs, she said.
“So it is important that we have the right persons, with the right skill set, the right qualification and the right experience. This is no dollyhouse. We must have the best persons who fit the bill. You must not just be qualified but you must be qualified in specific fields, according to the Constitution,” she said. She added the Constitution also stated the persons must be qualified and experienced and one could not be substituted for the other.
The motion was voted on and passed yesterday in the Lower House.

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