Just when one thinks that the Police Service Commission (PolSC) has reached the limit of its capacity to create crisis and confusion, it finds room to create more.
Having agreed to lift the suspension on acting Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith as the first step in undoing its error of appointing him to that position, it was properly the PolSC’s responsibility to so inform the public.
Instead, PolSC chairman Bliss Seepersad passed the responsibility to Griffith himself to inform the country via a news conference before proceeding to compound the problem by instructing the other acting CoP, McDonald Jacob, to facilitate Griffith with all “courtesies and respect of his office”. No wonder Jacob baulked and destabilised the deal that was supposed to resolve the problem.
As of yesterday, the PolSC has collapsed, with commissioner Susan Craig-James following Courtney McNish’s lead by resigning, leaving the four-member body without a quorum. In announcing Dr Craig-James’ resignation, the Office of the President made the staggering disclosure that it was making “every effort to fill the two recent vacancies at the soonest”. We find it hard to believe that President Paula-Mae Weekes intends to proceed as normal with the now completely discredited Bliss Seepersad as chairman of the PolSC.
We further note the report that the President has asked Commissioner Roger Kawalsingh to explain his decision to copy acting CoP Griffith on his complaint to chairman Seepersad about her unilateral decision to suspend Griffith. It is indeed a matter that Kawalsingh must explain. However, on the scale of important matters to be explained, the President herself has matters of far greater importance to answer for.
Among these is her failure to forward to the Parliament the merit list of candidates for the position of Acting Commissioner of Police. The fact that retired Justice Rolston Nelson has deemed the appointment of an acting CoP without parliamentary approval to have been ultra vires raises great concern about the President’s judgment in the matter, especially given her own experience as a former judge. The question of whether she sought legal advice or advised herself on this matter, or even agrees with Justice Nelson’s opinion are all valid, especially because of the implications of the decision to approve Griffith’s appointment without seeking Parliament’s approval.
The other even more troubling issue is the report of interference in the process of selecting the country’s next Commissioner of Police. This issue may well be the crux of the matter as the invisible hand which, in attempting to stay hidden, spun the web that has strangled the PolSC.
President Weekes must respond to the claims that an unidentified public official went to President’s House and succeeded in blocking the PolSC’s delivery of the merit list of candidates for CoP. The public interest requires that she identify that person, state whether she was briefed by him/her, and whether it was she or that person who spoke to PolSC chairman Seepersad and succeeded in blocking the process.