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Friday 23 March 2018

More facts, please

FRIDAY’S sitting of Parliament’s special committee on the nomination of a police commissioner shed useful light on the matter.

The decision of former chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) Dr Marie Therese Gomes to attend the hearing was laudable. Too often in the past, public officials have equivocated on the question of appearing before parliamentary committees. Gomes’ decision to attend, notwithstanding the fact that her tenure has expired, is an example more should follow.

That being said, the former chairman’s attempt to prevent PSC member Martin George from shedding further light on the question of votes which took place during the recruitment process, while possibly motivated by a need to ensure the PSC’s decisions are received at face value, was nonetheless a gratuitous attempt to control a matter that is now history and that the public has a right to know about. Let us have the facts.

It is to the credit of committee chairman Fitzgerald Hinds that George was allowed to speak to explain the nuances relating to the separate vote that took place over the question of whether a certain candidate ought to have made the merit list notwithstanding a submission from the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).

Unfortunately, amid the sparring, the committee did not get to edify the public on key questions such as appropriateness of the PCA’s involvement in the process; and whether the PCA’s apparently unsolicited submission could be construed as interference. It is important for these matters to be clarified to provide guidance for future processes.

When all is said and done, encouraging disclosures occurred last Friday. The fact that a total of 54 persons applied for the posts of police commissioner and deputy police commissioner, despite the clear pressures of these jobs, is a sign that there is an ample body of individuals who would like to be of service to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

While the committee quibbled over the difference between both posts, it is clear that deputies will be required from time to time to act as police commissioner. Such a practice is not only a matter of the hierarchy and structure of the Police Service, but an important tool used to nurture talent and ensure a smooth succession, even if appointment is ultimately on merit.

What is not good, however, is the confusion as to whether the PSC had any authority to ask 12 of the candidates if they would consider the other job. That is a matter which may require some form of legislative intervention or regulation.


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