“WE’VE HEARD you and we are ready to take action,” the Prime Minister declared on Thursday as he responded to this week’s events.
But in crucial respects, Dr Rowley fell short of his own words.
To some extent, that failure is the outcome of a tangled web of politics that has effectively paralysed the PM, the Opposition and the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
The outcome: continued civilian deaths, little sign of justice.
The PM’s effort to probe the social issues around police killings is a step forward.
However, his new committee is oriented to long-term factors. An urgent issue underlying this week’s protests against police brutality is the need for the police to be properly regulated.
The Prime Minister spoke of a coroner’s inquest being one possible way of ensuring that justice is served in this case, and expressed doubts about the capacity of the PCA to effect this outcome. Why?
In this regard, the reiteration by PCA director David West that the PCA relies on police to probe police is of utmost import. It draws attention to what has long been the case: this is an instance of himself probing himself.
This demands urgent action by the PM and the legislature.
Instead, on Thursday Dr Rowley opted to implicitly upbraid the PCA. He papered over the failure of Parliament to address the reforms the PCA has long called for, at Parliament committees, at town hall meetings, in annual reports.
Also not listening is Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who has a stake in these travails. Under her tenure, then PCA director Gillian Lucky highlighted the same issues raised by Mr West. Why have MPs not acted?
Last November that Mr West, having for years begged for legislative intervention, told a committee such legislation was unlikely, given the need for a two-thirds majority. He had no confidence the Opposition would be supportive, so he turned to informal arrangements. With the police.
Mr West, who heads an independent body, once served as a witness for Dr Rowley in a lawsuit. He also once made allegations against a UNC official who was later charged. Has this played a role in the feeling that the Opposition would not support him?
Is a belief on the part of the PM that the Opposition will not back legislation a factor in his declining to push for the overhauls so clearly needed?
Only last week, the Government and Opposition united to amend the Domestic Violence Act. Such unity has been missing in the response to the events of this week. That is a tragedy.
For at the end of the day, even when specific constituencies fall prey to excessive use of force, it is, in fact, the entire country that pays.