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Crisis looms as PSC debacle unresolved

Martin George & Company > Newspaper Articles  > Crisis looms as PSC debacle unresolved

Crisis looms as PSC debacle unresolved

TIME is running out for President Paula-Mae Weekes to find at least three new members to serve on the Police Service Commission (PSC) which imploded in the past fortnight with four resignations.

This has been topped by the withdrawal of new nominee retired DCP Vincel Edwards on Friday to allow Weekes “the widest consideration in reconstituting the five-member commission.”

The Constitution says members must be qualified and experienced in law, finance, sociology or management.

The President will consult the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader over nominees who then face affirmative resolution in the House of Representatives.

The situation is reminiscent of the collapse of Integrity Commission boards in 2009-2010 and the challenge to find people to serve.

The former PSC board under Bliss Seepersad had selected seven candidates, but this merit list was withheld from the President allegedly owing to information from an unnamed public official.

Because of this information, Seepersad appointed retired judge Stanley John to probe allegations of corruption in the granting of firearm user’s licences and possible interference in the police investigation into police legal unit head Christian Chandler.

On the CoP appointment, if the High Court says the PSC acted unlawfully in appointing Gary Griffith to act as CoP from August 17 based on Section 123 of the Constitution and Legal Order 183, the police service could be leaderless, as the ruling could also apply to acting CoP McDonald Jacob.

The President, Parliament and the next PSC have just two weeks to do their work, as Jacob’s acting appointment ends on October 15.

Newsday sought a timeline for the President to seek new PSC nominees.

A President’s House source said it is known the country lacks a PSC.

“It stands to reason that we are looking for people.”

Law Association (LATT) president Sophia Chote SC said, “There is a process set out and I suspect that within the next couple of weeks we will see more names being brought forward for consideration.”

Newsday asked if the four resignations from the PSC and Edwards’ withdrawal might deter new nominees.

Chote replied, “I don’t necessarily think so, because there have been resignations in the past from various commissions and that hasn’t prevented people from being considered. So I don’t think it will have that impact necessarily.”

Should a sense of urgency now prevail? She said, “Certainly I imagine there would be a certain amount of expedition in the process to try to fill these positions.

“So I expect the parties involved will be acting expeditiously.”

Former PSC member Martin George said Edwards was right to withdraw, as a career police officer might face potential conflicts of interest as a PSC commissioner.

Israel Khan SC was quite perturbed.

“They do not have a PSC to interview then recommend and select nominees to be commissioner of police, so we are in a constitutional crisis.”

He said when Jacob’s term as acting CoP ends the post could be empty if no PSC exists to appoint anyone, even as a court could say Gary Griffith was not properly named as acting CoP.

“The police legally cannot operate without a CoP who administers the affairs of the police and disciplines officers. “We are in a constitutional crisis.”

Khan urged the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister to fully co-operate without partisan politics when consulted by the President to quickly put in place a new PSC.

“The ball is now in the President’s court. Her Excellency has to move very quickly. I don’t know how she’ll go about getting members willing to serve on that commission.”

He said when Jacob’s term ends, any lack of a PSC would stop him being reappointed. Griffith had voluntarily stepped aside and had a letter to act until a substantive CoP is named, yet the courts must decide if he had been properly named as acting COP without Parliament’s nod.

Khan agreed with the Prime Minister’s view that errors were made in Griffith appointment, but reckoned in a crisis the courts could let Griffith hold the post.

BY: DARREN BAHAW AND SEAN DOUGLAS

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