The TTWhistleblower continues a series that explores the history of crime and criminal activity under the current and previous PNM Administrations.
We will explore the levels of crime since 1991 to the present, analyse the recent debate on the Anti-Terrorism legislation, and the Rowley Administration’s obstruction of the appointment of a Commissioner of Police following a Special Select Committee of the Parliament.
Our figures, findings and evidence could well show that historically, the PNM has undertaken policy and political measures that exacerbated crime and criminal activity.
Today, we look at the PNM’s history (or habit) of dealing with Commissioners of Police
NO TO DULALCHAN
Following years of attempts to put the issue of a substantive Commissioner of Police, it was the Prime Minister who led the Government’s obstruction of Deodath Dulalchan’s installation to the post.
Dulalchan was interviewed, assessed and selected after an exhaustive process, and while the Prime Minister was unable to use his office to veto the appointment, the PNM Administration found a way to ensure that the post would remain unfilled.
A Special Select Committee was appointed to review the decision of the Police Service Commission and the report was eventually presented to Parliament by Fitzgerald Hinds. A subsequent Trinidad Guardian report of 08 June 2018 stated that Hinds told a PNM political meeting that there was no race issue in the rejection of Dulalchan.
THEY DID IT BEFORE
But this was not the PNM’s first dance in attempting to direct who should and should not be the Commissioner of Police
It was on 15 March 2006 that former Prime Minister, the late Patrick Manning told the House of Representatives in a Constitution Amendment debate: “Hitherto, the Police Service Commission made an appointment of a commissioner of police but the Prime Minister had a veto on it.”
The Prime Minister could not propose a Commissioner of Police, but after the Police Service Commission completed the appropriate procedures as established by law, the Prime Minister would be consulted and could use a veto to reject the appointment.
Manning went on in that debate to tell the House: “What the legislation now before the House proposes, is that the prime ministerial veto disappears but that the name, as identified by the Police Service Commission, will itself come before the Parliament and also will be the subject of affirmative resolution.”
The power of veto was tantamount of having the power to appoint, because if you can refuse to approve candidates, you effectively decide who holds the offices of Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.
But two years later, something happened.
In the Newsday of 13 July 2008 headlined “How to reject a Police Commissioner” this is what was reported: “It was at Whitehall, back in 1999 that PNM leader Patrick Manning met with Basdeo Panday, the then Prime Minister, over the pressing issue of crime. The move was unusual; Manning was then the opposition leader. Out of this meeting would later come new legislation to determine how this country chooses its Police Commissioner.
Nine years later, Manning would be accused of having another meeting, also in Whitehall, this time allegedly to derail the very legislative process his administration had brought forward as part of its plan to combat crime.
Nine years later, the Prime Minister would be accused of trying to dissuade Senior Superintendent Stephen Williams from accepting the nomination to the post of CoP. Williams was the Police Service Commission (PSC)’s nominee for the job.
In Parliament on Friday, July 11, 2008, Opposition Chief Whip Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj alleged that Manning held a meeting with Williams at Whitehall, telling him, “Government has a plan that does not include you.”
Based on Rowley’s handling of Dulalchan’s appointment, one must ask whether the now defunct power of veto has morphed into some kind of hybrid, where the party with the majority of votes … commanded by the Prime Minister, can still ‘veto’ appointments by using instruments and committees of the Parliament?
THE ISSUE OF TRUST
The issue comes down to one of trust; the population’s trust in the Police Service; the Police Service’s trust that it can work independently and the nation’s trust in the Government.
In the Newsday on 19 May 2018 it was reported: “(Stephen) Williams, when asked if he would re-apply for the CoP position, said he could not answer that question as the selection process, which chose Dulalchan, was deemed flawed by a special select committee (SSC) of Parliament requested by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.”
The Opposition also presented a Minority Report of the SSC to the Parliament, saying it was split along political lines with Opposition MP’s wanting to affirm Dulalchan while Government MP’s felt the process used by the PSC to select nominees for CoP and DCP was “defective and unreliable.”
The Government used its House majority to defeat the appointment of Dulalchan.
WHAT THE REPORT SAID
Section 5.3 of the SSC Report, under conclusions stated: “The Committee recognises that there was not full consensus in relation to the conclusions set out above insofar as a minority of members believe that there was no fundamental breach of the law beginning with an open tender and ending with a strategy that allowed for a unanimous method of selection, and that the flaws in the process were not fundamental so as to render it unfair and arbitrary.”
But the recommendation of the Special Select Committee was very clear: “The Committee recommends that the Order made pursuant to Section 123 (2) of the Constitution should be subject to urgent review with the view to the establishment of well-defined guidelines for the selection of a COP and DCOP.”
Did this mean that the Government dominated Committee was trying to protect itself by recommending a plugging of the very loophole it used to obstruct Dulalchan?
In the minority report of the Special Select Committee the recommendation was clear: “This report holds the view that there is a presumption of regularity in the conduct of public bodies unless mala fides can be proven. Therefore in the absence of such findings the PSC acted in good faith.”
“At all material times the PSC sought and obtained legal advice on their role, involvement and boundaries. It was commendable that they depended on legal advice throughout this process. We agree with the Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) (Ag) that the PSC did the best that they could in the new circumstances. Indeed the PSC charted new ground.”
It was the Prime Minister who wanted this special select committee to review the Police Service Commission selection process for the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police.
But in calling for the SSC, the Prime Minister’s blasé reference to an Acting Commissioner of Police could not help the process when he said in this House on 02 February 2018: “We have had the situation of acting appointments, and a lot has been said about that. I need not repeat, but it had the effect of contributing to the under-performance of the police service.”
Having called for an SSC, one would have thought that he would allow the process of review to take place before he went on to make political comments about the entire Police Service.
But in the Trinidad Guardian, 24 April 2018 the headline was “PM begs UK-based nationals to come home to fight crime”
The news story stated: “Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday urged T&T nationals in the United Kingdom to return home and help fight crime by sharing their experiences and expertise.
He made the appeal while addressing members of the T&T diaspora in London yesterday, as he expressed disappointment that none of them had applied for the post of Commissioner of Police when it was advertised internationally.
Lamenting that T&T has not had a confirmed CoP for almost five years although crime was a major setback facing the country, the PM said: “T&T is at the gateway to the world where drugs, guns and ammunition comes in. International cooperation is needed. We cannot change our location.”
He added, “We were hoping that when the advertisement came out, we were sure that there were nationals somewhere who served in the British police service that at least one of you would have applied for commissioner or if not as a deputy.”
The Prime Minister also said: “We are still in a situation where we are not able to get distinguished leadership that could rise through the ranks (of the TTPS) and take charge of the men to respond to the criminal element. It is a problem that we hope will not last for much longer.”
Even as a process of selection according to the laws of Trinidad and Tobago was under review and being considered, the Prime Minister himself was undermining the process saying: “We are not able to get distinguished leadership that could rise through the ranks (of the TTPS) and take charge of the men to respond to the criminal element”?
This from the same Prime Minister who is quoted as having said he “instructed” the Police Commissioner, something that a Prime Minister is NOT empowered to do…
In the Trinidad Guardian, 25 November 2017, it was reported: “The PM said he had instructed Williams to seek out the wrongdoers from Thursday and the Defence Force will provide support during the round-up of these individuals. As for those who encourage others to break the law and incite violence, he said they will find no sympathy from the Government.”