PSC member resigns amidst Griffith debacle
The maelstrom of controversy surrounding the appointment of Gary Griffith to act as Commissioner of Police by the Police Service Commission (PSC) in mid-August – which was rescinded a month later by the commission in a ‘suspension’ letter to Griffith – took another eye-opening turn yesterday evening when one of the PSC’s members, Courtney McNish, handed in his resignation.
McNish’s resignation came at a time when the commission already facing three lawsuits over its handling of the recruitment of the next Police Commissioner.
The remaining members of the commission, which usually operates with five members, are chairman Bliss Seepersad, sociologist Dr Susan Craig-Jones and attorney Roger Kawalsingh.
McNish’s resignation was announced by the Office of the President in a media release yesterday.
The release said President Paula-Mae Weekes had accepted the resignation of the industrial relations expert with immediate effect.
Well-placed sources who spoke to Guardian Media and were familiar with the ongoing situation, said McNish was not pleased with how Seepersad handled the “suspension” of Griffith in the first place.
“He was unhappy with how the chairman handled the entire situation. It was connected to the suspension letter that the chairman issued on September 17,” the source said.
The source added, “He was very unhappy with the process and McNish, being an industrial relations expert, felt she did not follow the proper procedure before issuing a suspension. There is a process to follow and under the relevant Industrial Relations Act.”
Another source also in the know about the situation, said there needed to be a disciplinary hearing of some nature, “before someone can be suspended.”
That source indicated that the remaining members “seem to be caught in some uncertainty as to what their next move may be.”
Guardian Media was unsuccessful in its numerous attempts to contact McNish for comment on the issue yesterday.
Guardian Media also sent PSC chairman Bliss Seepersad a WhatsApp message at 4.51 pm, which she later read, as indicated by two blue ticks.
In the message sent by Guardian Media, we asked Seepersad for an interview on the current situation “in the interest of fairness, accountability and transparency and not to create doubt in the population’s mind about the present situation with the PSC.”
Guardian Media offered to send the questions via WhatsApp but Seepersad did not respond.
McNish’s resignation leaves the commission with three remaining members – Seepersad, sociologist Dr Susan Craig-James and attorney Roger Kawalsingh.
Under Section 122 of the Constitution, the commission consists of a chairman and four members.
Guardian Media understands that despite McNish’s resignation, the commission can still continue to function with a quorum of three members.
Meanwhile, Speaking on CNC3’s Morning Brew programme with host Jason Williams yesterday, attorney Martin George, who served on the PSC for nine years, said that the current members had to break their silence on recent issues over the recruitment of a new Police Commissioner.
George said: “It is incumbent on the Police Service Commission to come out and make a public statement and clear the air on these issues and questions that are swirling around.”
He suggested that if they chose to ignore his advice, it may have a dire effect on public trust in the commission.
“The public trust in our institutions is of paramount importance. Without that, we will descend into anarchy,” George said.
He suggested that based on information in the public domain over the recruitment process, it (the process) was in “a hot mess.”
“It ought to have been more properly thought out before we reached this critical juncture,” George said.
George said based on his experience on the commission, there is an urgent need for reforms.
He also said based on the phenomenal amount of work required by members to complete the process, they should be given permanent appointments as opposed to temporary postings.
He also suggested that the recruitment and appointment process was mired in bureaucracy.
“We really don’t need this because other countries do not go through this convoluted process to simply appoint a police commissioner…It is easier to appoint a Chief Justice or President than a police commissioner,” George said.
Speaking on I95.5FM’s morning show with hosts Tony Lee and Dale Enoch yesterday, Senior Counsel Martin Daly suggested that the remaining members of the commission should resign over the ongoing debacle.
“They have let the country down because they have allowed a perception to creep in that they are not acting in their own deliberate judgment, so, of course, they should resign,” Daly said.
“The fact is they have got us into a mess and they should get out and allow someone to try to solve this.” Daly stated that although it may be limited by the ongoing lawsuits, the commission should still issue an official statement on its issues in a bid to save its (the Commission) reputation.
“There is a distinct perception that there are things going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about,” Daly said.
He also claimed that the issues should not have arisen, as the commission would have been aware of when Griffith’s contract was due to expire and had the time to complete the process.
“The commission should have managed that in a way that this kind of fiasco would not have arisen,” he said.
By: Derek Achong