Trinidad and Tobago’s three highest office holders—the President, the Prime Minister and Attorney General—have been hit with a “blow” from the High Court which exposed an entanglement that may amount to misconduct in public office.
So says Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who added that the Opposition will take further action in dealing with this crisis.
Speaking at a news conference at the Opposition Leader’s Port of Spain office yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said for the first time in this country’s history there is no Police Commissioner or acting Police Commissioner at a time when crime is again on the rise.
She said these three office holders have questions to answer, as she reiterated her call for the resignations of President Paula-Mae Weekes and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Persad-Bissessar said Al-Rawi has a history of bringing flawed legislation to the Parliament.
She noted that in July 2021 Al-Rawi made yet another amendment for the selection process for the Commissioner of Police—which removed the requirement for the Police Service Commission (PolSC) to retain an independent firm for the recruitment process.
The UNC, she reminded, objected to this and moved to annul the 2021 order through a motion moved by Senator Wade Mark on July 5.
This motion was defeated by the PNM’s parliamentary majority, as she noted that all nine independent senators also voted with the Government in support of this Order.
Persad-Bissessar pointed out that the court has deemed this Order as well as the 2009 Order illegal. “This judgment vindicates the Opposition position it took on this matter,” she said.
“AG Faris must now resign. How many serious legal matters must Faris lose before the Prime Minister accepts the fact that Faris is unfit to hold office? He no longer has any credibility,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar noted this is the second time a legal order Al-Rawi made with respect to the CoP has been struck down by the court.
She reminded that she led the legal team in the case of Harridath Maharaj and the Attorney General challenging the legislation where Al-Rawi inserted the National Security Minister in the selection process which the High Court ruled as illegal.
Order of Merit
Persad-Bissessar said according to acting Director of Personnel Administration of the Service Commissions Department Corey Harrison, in a sworn affidavit dated September 27, 2021, the Commission had completed its selection process for the substantive Police Commissioner on August 9, 2021.
She questioned if this was the case, why did the PolSC, when it wrote to the President on August 12, simply not submit the Order of Merit List for substantive appointment to the office of Commissioner of Police?
She reminded that former PolSC member Roger Kawalsingh disclosed in an e-mail that the Commission had completed the list and Seepersad was to deliver this list to the President on August 12.
Persad-Bissessar noted Kawalsingh had indicated Seepersad visited the President and “there was an occurrence and information obtained which excited the suspicion of the chair and caused her such discomfort that it was not possible to deliver the list”.
She said it still remains to be answered who interfered and what information did they provide. She further questioned what “magic” took place for the list of substantive nominees for top cop to morph into a list for Acting candidates.
President must speak
Persad-Bissessar said the President must break her silence or resign.
“She should stop being the poster girl for Prime Minister Rowley. Speak up! Don’t be a poster girl. You are a brilliant woman, an experienced jurist,” she said.
She said the President was an esteemed jurist, and she ought to know that any interference in the process is illegal.
Persad-Bissessar added that it is “inconceivable and incredible” that the President did not know that the PolSC selection process for a substantive Police Commissioner was completed on August 9.
She added that assuming Seepersad did not inform the President that the selection process was completed, “common sense” would have demanded that the President ask Seepersad for a status report on the matter.
Persad-Bissessar questioned whether there was any conspiracy between the President and the person who interfered to frustrate the selection process under the Constitution.
Rush of notifications
Persad-Bissessar said she suspects that there will be a “rush” of notifications to the Parliament to constitute a PolSC, but added that the President has no moral authority to do so until she gives an explanation for the scandal.
Persad-Bissessar also hit back at Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who described her as a hypocrite for taking issue with Attorney Ernest Koylass being proposed as a PolSC member.
“Don’t get distracted by the red herrings and the smoke herrings that the Prime Minister is trying to pelt in our faces,” she said.
She said other persons whom Rowley named as having political affiliations and being appointed to serve on independent institutions had all ceased actively being involved in politics.
She said up to last year, on the eve of the general election, Koylass hosted a cocktail fund-raising event at his house for Al-Rawi.
Persad-Bissessar said further that any order of Merit List that exist with respect to Police Commissioner or acting is now dead.
“The manner in which the PolSC conducted itself tarnishes and invalidates any list they may have put forward,” she said.
“We’ll have to wait and see if this list will be like Lazarus and rise from the dead,” she added.
She said the PolSC is supposed to be impartial, and the Government’s actions show an attempt to have political control over the guardians of the democracy.
“It is a dangerous thing if you have partisan PolSC who then selects a partisan Commissioner. You could end up with an army of rogue policemen following the Balisier doing the right-foot-left-foot dance and then every citizen is in danger,” she said.