WITH MONDAY’S approval of the nomination of Gary Griffith to the post of Commissioner of Police by the House of Representatives, many have breathed a sigh of relief. The prospect that the crucial post will finally be filled after more than six years has rightly been welcomed.
However, Monday’s Parliament debate was a missed opportunity for political consensus on what remains a grave matter. And judging from the partisan positions taken by MPs, it is clear that an unacceptable degree of politics remains at play within the State’s administration of matters of policing.
It is now for the Police Service Commission (PSC) to effect an appointment. No doubt the commission will be guided by the law which states the PSC “shall appoint the commissioner … only after the House of Representatives approves the notification in respect of the relevant office.” However, the legal provisions are silent as to timeline, reflecting yet another flaw in the current system which Parliament is yet to rectify.
Be that as it may, there is a strong presumption an appointment should be made as soon as reasonably practical. This is more so given the alarming crime situation. Yet, the path to implementation of the Parliament’s will might not be straightforward. There are already signs of people preparing legal action to challenge the current process. Certainly, Monday’s Parliament debate, in which the Opposition abstained from the final vote citing concerns over the procedure adopted, is an indication that litigation of some sort is a possibility.
It is deeply unsatisfactory that both the Government and the Opposition used Monday’s debate to issue political volleys. Both sides made only the most cursory of references to the former national security minister’s CV, which defeated the purpose of the debate in the first place. That debate is meant to allow representatives of the people to come to a considered position on the candidate before them. Instead, the Government revived the scandalous LifeSport programme, and the Opposition resurrected “Emailgate.” Both sides said Griffith played some role which vindicated them.
Both matters were somewhat relevant, perhaps. But they left the unsavoury impression that MPs adopted a course of action based solely on how Griffith may be related to their own political interests, rather than the need to place the welfare of the people of Trinidad and Tobago first. Is Griffith really suitable for the job? If so, MPs have not really told us why.
Though the approval is welcomed, Monday was in some respects a cop-out. More worryingly, it was a sign that, if Griffith is appointed as promised, politics will be the first obstacle to him succeeding in the job.