OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is calling on the three remaining members of the Police Service Commission (PSC) to come clean on whether they were influenced by government members in removing Gary Griffith as acting commissioner of police.
In a statement on Wednesday, Persad-Bissessar said, "There is also the grave perception that the PSC's shambolic handling of this serious matter was driven by direct influence from the government. If that is true, it would be a serious breach of safeguards meant to shield the (PSC) and (police service) from political interference."
Her statement follows media publication of a letter and e-mail from Roger Kawalsingh, one of the PSC members, which claimed that the list of the top candidates for the post of CoP was completed on August 12, five days before Griffith's three-year-contract came to an end, but was not sent to the President, after an unnamed public official raised serious concerns which prompted the PSC chair to abandon the process.
Among the shortlisted candidates are Griffith, DCP Erla Christopher, ACP Wendell Williams, Lt Col Sheldon Ramnanan and ACP Andre Norton.
Kawalsingh also raised concern about the appointment of retired Justice of Appeal Stanley John and his terms of reference, claiming that it overstepped the powers of the PSC and was against one of the seven shortlisted candidates.
On Monday, the Opposition Leader called for the immediate resignation of all PSC members over what she described as the "constitutional crisis" they created in appointing an acting CoP.
On Tuesday, one of the members, Courtney McNish, an industrial relations consultant, resigned, the day after Griffith made good on a legal threat to challenge his suspension. Neither Kawalsingh nor McNish was willing to comment on Wednesday.
Persad-Bissessar said the remaining members – chairman Bliss Seepersad, Susan Craig-James and Kawalsingh – should do the same.
She said owing to the PSC "mishandling of the this matter," there are now two acting CoPs – Griffith and McDonald Jacob.
WAS LIST SENT?
Persad-Bissessar called on the PSC to say whether the list of people qualified to act as police commissioner was sent to the President as required by law.
"The commission continues to remain silent on this. However, we understand that the President has acknowledged receiving a list of suitably qualified people as nominees to act in the office of Commissioner of Police," Persad-Bissessar said.
A letter sent by the Office of the President's director of legal services Nancy Arneaud to a lawyer in the chambers of former attorney general Anand Ramlogan says on August 12 the PSC sent a list of names to the President in accordance with the provisions of Legal Notice 183, which sets out the procedure for appointing an acting commissioner of police, and the President replied to the chairman of the PSC the following day.
"No notification was sent to Parliament by Her Excellency for the granting of an acting appointment in the Office of Commissioner of Police as no such procedure is mandated or provided for in law," Arneaud said.
Persad-Bissessar questioned why no notification of the merit list was sent for the approval of the Parliament in accordance with section 123 of the Constitution.
The Opposition contends that the new 2021 Legal Order, which deals with people who are/were on contract, does not give the PSC the power to appoint a deputy commissioner to act as CoP or an assistant commissioner to act as deputy commissioner.
"The procedure set out in the Constitution ought to have been followed by the PSC and the President.
"I therefore again call on Her Excellency President Paula-Mae Weekes to state why the list of suitably qualified persons was not presented to the Parliament as required by law, and why the notification of the appointment to act as CoP was not sent to the Parliament," Persad-Bissessar said.
Griffith is challenging his suspension from office on the basis that the PSC's action was unlawful and breached the rules of natural justice. His case will be heard next Monday.
To further complicate the matter, there is another lawsuit filed by Snr Supt Anand Ramesar who applied for the job of CoP, but failed to make it to the shortlist of seven final candidates. Ramesar's case will be heard in January.
In another twist, social activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj has filed a legal challenge claiming Griffith's appointment as acting commissioner was not legal. This case was adjourned to October 1.
These three court cases could affect the outcome of the final selection of the next CoP.