President Paula-Mae Weekes was “immediately concerned” about paragraph 4 of Legal Notice 183 under which Gary Griffith was appointed to act as top cop and communicated this in writing to chairman of the Police Service Commission (PolSC), Bliss Seepersad.
The President took the position that all she was required to do was to receive the list of nominees for the position of acting Commissioner of Police submitted by the PolSC and thank the chairman for sending it.
These points were made in a letter from the President to Seepersad, which is appended to the affidavit of Corey Harrison, the acting Director of Personnel Administration, on behalf of the PolSC in the matter of the constitutionality of Gary Griffith’s acting appointment.
The letter dated August 13, 2021, responded to a letter from the Commission chairman dated August 12, which submitted the list of nominees to act as Commissioner of Police with effect from August 17, 2021. It is understood the list contained two names - Griffith and McDonald Jacob.
The President expressed a “further concern” as to whether paragraph 4 of Legal Notice 183 intended that the President select one of the nominees for the position of acting Commissioner.
“A further concern in considering whether paragraph 4 was to be taken by implication to mean that the President should select one of the nominees, was that the legislation does not provide any guidelines, parameters or information on which the President should be seized before making a selection. Presidential discretion could hardly be exercised on “town say” or other arbitrary method,” the President said.
“Nowhere within its four walls does it (paragraph 4) does it set out any role or function, force or authority in the President,” the President stated.
“The President, being a creature of statute, has no inherent jurisdiction and must find all power and authority within some law. I have found none beyond receiving the relevant list (of nominees)”.
Paragraph 4, which allows for a person whose contract had ended to be nominated to act as Commissioner, is at the root of the current imbroglio involving Griffith, the PolSc, the Government and the President. Prior to the creation of paragraph 4, the PolSC was not required to send any list of nominees to the President but merely to appoint to act a person holding or acting as Deputy Commissioner of Police.
President: No law was good
The President in her letter virtually pointed the Commission in the direction of the original legislation (Legal Notice 103 of 2009) which stated clearly that the PolSC could have appointed a deputy Commissioner in circumstances where the office of the Commissioner was vacant “for whatever reason and the appointment of his successor is pending”.
The President’s letter formed part of the documents accompanying an affidavit sworn, signed and submitted yesterday to the court by Harrison. One of the main issues to be determined by the court in the matter of Ravi Balgobin Maharaj v the Attorney General is whether list of nominees for the position of acting Commissioner should have been sent to the Parliament for confirmation.
The President said the original law—Legal Notice 2009—remains good law “not revoked by Legal Notice 183 of 2021 or any other notice”.
The matter of Ravi Balgobin Maharaj v the Attorney General was heard by Justice Nadia Kangaloo yesterday. Interested parties in the matter are the Police Service Commission and Griffith.
Ramlogan: No Commission exists
In the affidavit, Harrison stated that the Commission’s position was that Section 123 (5) of the Constitution was silent on the issue of making acting appointments for Commissioner of Police and therefore was not “prohibited” for making the acting appointment.
Harrison said attorney Dave Persad wrote to the Commission chairman on August 26 calling on the PolSC to terminate the appointment of Griffith as acting Commissioner as he was of the view that the appointment was “illegal, null and void”.
“By letter dated September 6, I (Harrison) responded...informing him...that Section 123 (5) of the Constitution is silent on the appointment of a person to act in the office of Commissioner of Police and accordingly does not prohibit the Commission from appointing a person to act as Commissioner of Police,” he said.
One of the issues which came up yesterday was whether the PolSC which is “inquorate” had the legal authority to sanction any submission, including the affidavit. Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan SC, attorney for Ravi Balgobin Maharaj, hammered this point several times, stating: “The Police Service Commission established by the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago does not exist.”
However, senior counsel Russell Martineau said the PolSC had given instructions prior to it becoming inquorate.
Ramlogan also accused the Attorney General’s legal team of trying to bring the issue of the legality of Legal Notice 2009 through “back door” into this matter.