PRESIDENT Paula-Mae Weekes must say why she failed to submit the list of nominees for the substantive appointment of Commissioner of Police (CoP) and deputy commissioner to the Parliament for approval, when she received it almost two months ago on August 12.
Giving this ultimatum was the lead attorney for former commissioner Gary Griffith.
In a media release on Thursday, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, pointed to statements made on affidavit by acting Director of Personnel Administration, Corey Harrison, in the interpretation claim filed by social activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj.
Balgobin-Maharaj is questioning the legality of Griffith’s acting appointment when his three-year contract as CoP ended on August 16.
On Wednesday, former independent senator Martin Daly, SC, called on Weekes to say what took place on August 12 at the Office of the President which eventually led to the total collapse of the Police Service Commission (PSC) when all three members and its chairman Bliss Seepersad, resigned within days.
In his affidavit, Harrison, on behalf of the PSC, said “less than two months” after Legal Notice 183 of 2021, which set out the procedure for the selection of a commissioner and deputy commissioner, was issued, a list of nominees was submitted to the President.
Harrison maintained there was no delay by the PSC in carrying out its exercise to select a top cop given that the 2021 order was issued on June 17.
He provided a table of events undertaken by the PSC, starting with a decision to advertise the post at a meeting on June 17, to the vetting process of the applicants from July 23 to August 9. The list of nominees was then sent to Weekes on August 12.
Maharaj now wants answers on this mystery list.
He said on receiving the list, the President was constitutionally mandated, to issue a notification to the Parliament for approval.
“The President has a duty to explain to the public why, upon receiving the list of nominees from the commission on August 12, she elected not to perform her constitutional duty under section 123 (4) of the Constitution, to submit the requisite notifications to the House of Representatives for its approval,” Maharaj said.
Openness, transparency and accountability of the State to the people demand that the President gives the public an explanation why the list was not sent to Parliament in or around August 12, Maharaj said.
Maharaj said section 123 makes no provision for the exercise of discretion by the President on how she treats with a list of nominees submitted to her by the PSC.
On the same day Weekes received the list of nominees for the substantive post of police commissioner, she also received from Seepersad, two names for the post of acting CoP.
In her reply to Seepersad on the two names for the acting position, Weekes said while Legal Notice 183 of 2021 raised for her “immediate concern,” it did not confer on her any role, function, power, or authority, other than to receive the list.
She also said the notice provided no guidance to her on what she was supposed to do with the two names on the list. Griffith and current acting commissioner McDonald Jacob were the names on that list.
Griffith was suspended on September 17, but this was later rescinded by the PSC after a deal was struck between him and the commission. He has agreed to go on leave pending an investigation initiated by the PSC to look into allegations of corruption in the issuing of firearm user’s licences; and the police handling of an incident at sea involving Christian Chandler, head of the police legal unit.
Jacob’s acting appointment ends on October 15. Griffith has been reported as saying he will be on the job the next day. On October 14, Justice Nadia Kangaloo is expected to give her ruling on Balgobin-Maharaj’s interpretation claim.
In her letter to Seepersad, the President also referred to the 2009 Order on the procedure for selecting an acting commissioner, remained good law and was not revoked by the 2021 Order, and gave the PSC the power to appoint a deputy commissioner in the office of acting top cop.
Seepersad was also advised that the “unequivocal and unrevoked” provisions of the 2009 Order could not be revoked by implication by the 221 Order.
“I can only conclude that in his wisdom the draftsman of Legal Notice 183 of 2021 (the 2021 Order) considered it desirable that the president be informed of the list from which the acting Commissioner of Police is selected.”
She said all that remained for her to do was to thank the PSC for submitting the names of the nominees it identified to act as commissioner from August 17.
On August 20, the PSC issued a press release indicating that Griffith’s acting appointment, until a substantive appointment could be made, took effect three days earlier.
Around the same time, the PSC was hit with a lawsuit from acting Senior Supt Anand Ramesar who challenged his rejection by the commission to the interview stage of the selection process for the position of top cop and its failure to provide him with reasons. He secured an injunction that blocked the PSC from continuing with the recruitment process. It remains in place until October 25.
Under the Constitution, the PSC is mandated to oversee the recruitment process for the commissioner and deputy commissioners.
Once the commission creates a short list of successful candidates, it forwards it to the Office of the President.
The top candidate then has to be approved by the Prime Minister and the Parliament before that person can take up the post. Griffith, according to sources, is among the top seven candidates interviewed by the PSC.
In his statement on Wednesday, Daly was critical of the silence by President Paula-Mae Weekes and the Government’s alleged dismissal of the PSC’s collapse.
“It is not surprising that this Government, which has lost its way in a fog of authoritarianism, believes it can dismiss the collapse of the Police Service Commission as a trivial event for which it is not obliged to account," Daly said.
“However, what does the President of the Republic intend to do,” he asked.
He referred to a claim by a PSC member that on August 12, Seepersad went to President’s House and met an unnamed public official. Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has suggested this official was the Prime Minister. To date, Dr Rowley has not confirmed or denied if it was him.
Daly said this resulted in the PSC chairman not carrying out her duty to deliver to Weekes an agreed list of candidates for appointment to the office of Commissioner of Police.
He said this act precipitated the PSC’s collapse.
“Her Excellency has remained silent. With respect, if she values the credibility of her office, it is not open to her to avoid accountability with reference to what allegedly happened at President’s House on August 12, 2021.
“We are entitled to hold the office of President to a higher standard than the one that currently prevails in partisan politics. Do the right thing please.
“Otherwise, if the President does follow the Government’s lead and simply proceeds with business as usual, we will soon pay for the failure of the Office of the President to fulfil its responsibility to disclose what happened on August 12 in order to unmask a constitutionally dangerous cover-up.”
Questions were sent on Thursday to the Office of the President for comment on the calls made by Daly and Maharaj, but there was no response up to press time.