NO ONE ABOVE THE LAW
By Andre Bagoo and Lara Pickford-Gordon Tuesday, August 28 2012
WHILE sacked Minister in the Ministry of National Security Collin Partap “requested” the presence of Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams on the basis of a “confrontational situation” with police officers outside of the Zen nightclub on Sunday morning, a Ministry of National Security probe found there was never any such confrontation, Minister of National Security Jack Warner said yesterday.
Responding to mounting concerns over how the Acting Commissioner of Police came to be involved in Partap’s case, Warner issued a press release and criticised Partap for calling in the country’s top cop.
“At approximately 5:00 am the then Minister in the Ministry of National Security, Collin Partap, made a call to the Acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams, advising him of a confrontational situation with police officers,” Warner said in a press release issued at about 5.30 pm yesterday. “Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams exercised his discretion to arrive at the Belmont Police Station to ascertain the level of the confrontation.”
However, Warner said further checks showed Partap’s request was unfounded.
“The Ministry of National Security conducted its own investigations which reveal that there was no evidence of any confrontational situation between the then Minister Partap and any police officer and as such the then Minister’s request for the presence of the Acting Commissioner of Police was deemed injudicious, unnecessary and inappropriate,” Warner said, in an e-mailed release.
“A report on the circumstances was submitted for consideration of the Honourable Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Following discussions with the then Minister Partap, the Prime Minister took the decision to advise the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency, Professor George Maxwell Richards, to revoke the appointment of Minister Partap with immediate effect.”
Warner continued, “This decision is consistent with the Prime Minister’s decree that Ministers must act at all times with the prudence and decorum befitting the office they hold and, moreover, the Prime Minister has reiterated, once again, that no one is above the law.”
Warner’s statement came shortly after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, at a press conference at the Office of the Opposition, Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, called for Williams to explain how he came to be involved in the case and what his role was.
Warner stated Williams sought to “ascertain the level of the confrontation” and further issued legal advice to Partap.
“Upon his arrival the then Minister Partap explained to the Acting Commissioner that he did not see the need for him to take a breathalyser test,” Warner said. “Acting Commissioner Williams explained the options to the then Minister Partap which were that he could refuse to take the test and be formally charged or he could take the test and allow the results to determine his innocence or guilt.”
“The then Minister Partap agreed to have the breathalyser tests administered,” Warner said. “The results of the breathalyser test revealed that he was well within the legal limit. The then Minister was asked to complete a report on the matter by police at the Belmont Police Station and allowed to leave.”Partap was detained by police outside the Zen nightclub at Keate Street, Port-of-Spain. Police sources said yesterday that he refused to take a breath test a total of three times.
Partap did not respond to calls and messages yesterday. Williams, too, did not respond to queries.
There were reports yesterday that Williams took over responsibility for Partap’s case after his intervention. Williams is expected to address the issue at a police media briefing tomorrow.
Earlier, Rowley said Williams faced several questions over his role and must explain.
“We have the Acting Commissioner of Police finding himself in the police station having now to answer questions,” Rowley said. “Who called you there? What were you doing there? Did the freeing of the Minister have anything to do with your involvement?”
“Is it now that anybody who is deemed to be in violation of the law when accosted by the police they can say, ‘hold on I will talk to you in two hours time when my level of alcohol would have dropped’ or ‘I have on my cellphone the commissioner and he is going to come down here?’”
Rowley continued, “That is unequal treatment under the law and we do not want that. Based on the information that we have we are concerned that the independence of the Police Service is not there. And we want the Acting Commissioner to tell us just what he was doing there.”
“The role of the (Acting) Commissioner of Police must be, like Caesar’s wife, above reproach. I am requesting that he–for the preservation of the independence of the office of the Commissioner of Police, indicate that what happened was not as a result of who the person involved was. He must make an appropriate statement as a matter of great urgency and concern to everybody.”
In a later interview with Newsday, Rowley dismissed Warner’s statement and questioned why Warner was apparently issuing a statement on behalf of Williams.
“Jack Warner is purporting to answer the questions we have asked,” Rowley said. “This matter has nothing to do with Jack Warner: the Prime Minister has acted. It has noting to do with Jack Warner unless of course he is involved in what took place, and we do not know that.”
Rowley continued, “Why is Jack Warner talking and the Commissioner is silent? We want to hear from the Commissioner. We are not accusing the Commissioner of anything except to say he must explain it. Jack Warner is free to talk but he should hush.”
Warner, however, did the opposite yesterday afternoon. Speaking with reporters at the Hyatt Regency, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, as he arrived to attend a conference hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Victim and Witness Support Unit, Warner said the Partap case would be a warning to all ministers.
Asked if it was a lesson, he replied, “most definitely. A pity it can’t be a lesson for the Opposition but it is a lesson for other Ministers. But one day very soon, the Opposition will have a similar lesson.”
Warner said he did not see Partap’s firing as an embarrassment to Government. He said, “The swiftness of the action of the Prime Minister is commendable and she has to be given every credit for this, so when one sees an embarrassment, I see the reason for, of course, positive change, for high level of principle and I commend her very highly for that.”
Though he issued a statement which was critical of Partap yesterday afternoon, Warner said he had not spoken with Partap since his sacking on Sunday.
“I have not spoken to him,” he said. “I am quite sure, in the fullness of time, he would talk with you guys.”
On Sunday, Warner issued a statement saying a report would be filed with him on the matter by Williams. When asked about the receipt of a report from the acting top cop, Warner said he issued a release on that matter yesterday afternoon. “Whatever I said this (yesterday) afternoon covered everything,” he said.
Warner had no idea who Partap’s replacement would be and he said this was the remit of the Prime Minister.