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PM tables debate on new PSC

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PM tables debate on new PSC

A new Police Service Commission (PSC) is expected to be cemented next week.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who is scheduled to return from Scotland on Saturday, will pilot a debate next Wednesday in Parliament to approve the new five-member Commission.

This was confirmed to Guardian Media yesterday by Leader of Government in the House of Representatives Camille Robinson-Regis.

The Prime Minister, Robinson- Regis and a Trinidad and Tobago team are in Scotland for the United Nations’ climate change conference. The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) last week indicated Rowley returns on Saturday.

Prior to leaving Robinson-Regis had told Guardian Media that all five names would be done together in Parliament.

Yesterday Robinson- Regis added the notifications can be approved by a simple majority – which means the Government does not require Opposition support for passage.

The previous Commission collapsed on September 25.

This following a disagreement by the three Commissioners- Courtney McNish, Susan Craig-James and Roger Kawalsingh – with then PSC chairman Bliss Seepersad. The issues primarily included procedures for administrative leave for former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and a lack of consultation on this.

McNish was the first to go and resigned on September 21.

The PSC which required three members for a quorum, collapsed when Craig-James resigned on September 25.

Kawalsingh followed, resigning on September 27 and Seepersad on September 30.

Since then there has been no PSC and the selection and appointment of a Commissioner of Police is pending after Griffith’s contract ended on August 17.

Deputy CoP McDonald Jacob had been acting CoP after Griffith went on leave voluntarily. But Jacob’s acting stint ended October 15 when Griffith was expected to return.

However, a court ruling in a matter brought by activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj deemed the acting appointments illegal. That impacted the appointment of Griffith and Jacob to act further, leaving the TTPS without an acting head. Jacob, in his substantive post as DCP, is currently the Police Service’s accounting officer. The government has appealed aspects of the ruling.

After the resignations, the Office of the President immediately sought nominees for the PSC.

Following constitutionally-mandated consultation with Prime Minister Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the President completed notifications for five nominees: retired Justice of Appeal Judith Jones, financial consultant Maxine Attong, security expert Ian Ramdhanie, wealth management expert Maxine King and attorney at law Rajiv Persad.

The constitution mandated that the President select people “who are qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law, finance, sociology or management” as members of the Commission.

The notifications were sent to Parliament over the last few weeks. The final one, for Persad, was submitted last week.

These will now be debated at Wednesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives.

According to the Parliament’s agenda for that day, Speaker of the House Bridgid Annisette-George will present the five notifications for Jones, Attong, Ramdhanie, King and Persad.

Rowley will pilot debate on a motion to approve the notifications. The Opposition- which will caucus on its plans for debate will reply. Apart from Persad- Bissessar there are likely to be several other Opposition speakers.

Opposition still disapproves of President’s picks

Despite consultation with the President, Persad- Bissessar last week stated the President’s picks were all “tainted” until all questions posed to the President regarding issues concerning the selection of a Commissioner of Police are answered.

Persad-Bissessar said the President “lacked moral authority” to make any nominations for the Commission since her office was “mired in controversy” on that.

But former PSC member Martin George said the Opposition Leader’s failure or refusal to respond to the President’s notifications of the five proposed nominees is immaterial as the President would have fulfilled her constitutional duty to “consult” merely by inviting the responses from both Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

The Opposition wanted the President to identify a “public official” who was allegedly at President’s House on August 12 when the merit list for CoP was presented by Seepersad to the President. The list however was immediately withdrawn, President’s House confirmed in an October 17 statement which dealt with questions surrounding the President’s role in the PSC/CoP matter.

The Opposition believes the “official” influenced the withdrawal of the list by Seepersad and had called on Rowley to say if it was him. National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds subsequently said the National Security Council had passed to the PSC information the council “couldn’t have ignored.’’

The Opposition’s October 21 motion to impeach the President on the PSC matter, was defeated by a combined vote of Government members and Independent senators.

Yesterday Opposition MP Saddam Hosein underscored Persad- Bissessar’s comments, “We stand by the leader’s position that although nominees are good citizens, the fact is what’s done under the President’s hand will be tainted.”

The Opposition is expected to elaborate on its position at its upcoming news conference and Monday Night Forum.

There was no indication yesterday as to whether or not members of the United National Congress would walk out of Wednesday’s debate or abstain from voting.

By: Gail Alexander

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