FAR FROM providing comfort, the intervention of Minister of National Security Stuart Young in the matter of the deaths of two men held by police in connection with the murder of Andrea Bharatt is a cause for concern.
Despite Mr Young’s rose-tinted outlook, his actions signalled a complete breakdown of process and further brought into question the confidence that can be reposed in the Police Service and in the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
The minister, by virtue of the office he holds, is entitled to deal with matters that touch on national security. The murder of Ms Bharatt is clearly one. So too are the men’s deaths, particularly given the dubious statements issued by police, the emergence of forensic evidence suggestive of wrongdoing, the high rate of police-involved killings, the toothlessness of the PCA and the unrepentant position taken by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith over the disproportionate use of force by his officers.
While Mr Young was afforded a chance to ask questions of Mr Griffith with impunity, the same luxury was not shown a Sangre Grande music producer who last week Thursday found himself being interviewed by the police’s Professional Standards Bureau after a social media tit-for-tat with Mr Griffith. The action of the police in that matter merits a misconduct probe of its own.
All this suggests a slide down that slippery slope at the foot of which justice is replaced with extra-judicial killings carried out by officers acting above the law. Mr Young is right to be concerned.
However, the optics of the minister’s move were horrible. It was not clear what was the exact purpose of his calling in the police top brass, including Mr Griffith. By doing so, Mr Young has run the risk of involving himself in matters that have a direct bearing on at least three live investigations of fatalities: those relating to the two dead men and that relating to Ms Bharatt (currently one man is before the court charged with her murder).
This may not have been the minister’s intention, but the timing of his intervention also signalled reluctance on his part to await the findings of the PCA and the police. That reluctance speaks volumes about the Executive’s own lack of faith in the speed of probes by both.
Mr Young expects the country to be content with the police probing itself. Worse, he has placed great faith in the PCA despite all of its failings – and the Government’s failure to address them – and urged us all to wait and see how this turns out.
But on Monday it was Mr Young who did not practise what he preached.