Search for new PSC as Bliss quits
After days of serving as the lone member and chairman of the Police Service Commission, Bliss Seepersad resigned yesterday.
Her resignation came following weeks of controversy surrounding the operations of the commission, which collapsed in less than a week.
Seepersad had been the lone serving PSC member after three other commissioners resigned over issues concerning the selection of a Police Commissioner. There had been overwhelming calls for her to step down.
Courtney McNish resigned last Tuesday and Dr Susan Craig-James last Saturday, leaving the PSC without a quorum. Roger Kawalsingh resigned on Monday.
Yesterday, a short statement from President’s House confirmed President Paula-Mae Weekes accepted Seepersad’s resignation with immediate effect.
Seepersad, a financial services/administration professional and insurance broker, was appointed PSC chair in 2018 and reappointed for a second term in April this year. During the debate on her first appointment, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley provided a sterling recommendation for Seepersad.
However, her tenure ended in controversy following the PSC’s work on the selection of a CoP, which began in June, just months before the contract of then Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith expired on August 17.
Seepersad was catapulted into the spotlight both outside and within the PSC when other members disagreed with her decision to send Griffith on administrative leave. The then PSC members claimed Seepersad acted unilaterally.
Yesterday, Seepersad didn’t respond to calls. But her resignation does not put an end to the PSC’s issues.
Senior legal sources confirmed the PSC had collapsed after Craig-James resigned and the President now has to find new candidates.
After consulting the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, the President will forward the notification with potential members to Parliament for debate.
Legal sources said work done by the PSC – including the ongoing court matters – remains intact. They said continuation of the fact-finding mission being conducted by retired Judge Stanley John into the Police Service, depends on the instructions he would have been given.
The notification on the nomination of potential PSC member, retired police officer Vincel Edwards, is on the Order Paper for Monday’s sitting of Parliament.
Former PSC member, attorney Martin George, yesterday applauded Seepersad’s resignation. However, he said the notification for Edwards ought to be examined with the greatest concern and scrutiny and the Government should reconsider the notification before another dilemma occurs. He called for maturity and decorum from both Government and Opposition in handling the matters ahead.
George said he wasn’t casting aspersions, as he knew Edwards has an impeccable career and record. But he said putting a former acting Deputy Police Commissioner, “who spent decades within TTPS’ bosom and belly ought to raise concerns for anyone,” especially those vying for the top CoP post.
He said PSC members should have expertise in law, finance, sociology and management.
Meanwhile, Griffith, who is out of the country, said Seepersad’s resignation was not his business. But as a candidate for the CoP post, he said he expected the first order of business of a new PSC would be to give the President the points and merit list which were fully completed and that would then be forwarded to Parliament.
Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial, in a statement on the issue, said the process of appointing a CoP will now be inevitably delayed.
“T&T’s the only loser here,” she said.
Lutchmedial said in future, the President must refuse to appoint people to independent service commissions such as Seepersad, who held political state board appointments prior.
“Service commissions must be protected from political interference, otherwise this horrendous state of affairs will be repeated. The only way to prevent recurrence is to continue pressing for an investigation into this debacle- provision of information by public officials to Seepersad when they ‘interfaced’ on the appointment of ‘investigators’ from outside the TTPS or Police Complaints Authority, the delay in submitting the merit list to the President on someone’s instructions – all facts must be brought to light,” she urged.
Opposition MP Saddam Hosein meanwhile said Seepersad still needs to say who was the “public official” at President’s House in August when she went to deliver the merit list.
He said the UNC intends to file a Freedom of Information request to find out the identity of the person.
A statement from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar added, Seepersad’s resignation “ is the final nail” in PSC’s coffin.
The Opposition leader said Prime Minister has not answered questions as to whether or not he met the President to “influence” the PSC’s process of selecting an acting Commissioner.
“Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley must also clear the air.”
The Opposition Leader also blamed the constitutional crisis involving the PSC on Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
BY: GAIL ALEXANDER