Rowley on losing confidence in CoP Griffith: 'My judgment'

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, left, faces then police commissioner Gary Griffith alongside National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds at the opening of the Carenage Police Station on July 1. - Photo by Sureash Cholai
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, left, faces then police commissioner Gary Griffith alongside National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds at the opening of the Carenage Police Station on July 1. - Photo by Sureash Cholai

The Prime Minister has admitted that he lost confidence in former police commissioner Gary Griffith one year ago, and he wrote a letter to the Police Service Commission (PSC) detailing the reasons for his discontent.

During a media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's, on Saturday, Dr Rowley said he wrote to the PSC on three separate occasions regarding the CoP in the last year.

When asked to elaborate on what led to this loss of confidence, Rowley only said, "My judgment."

Last September, Griffith was invited to a meeting with Rowley after they publicly disagreed on how the police should enforce public health restrictions to combat the spread of covid19 with respect to gatherings at public and private properties.

This was in the wake of a video of a group of people liming at a communal pool at Bayside Towers in Cocorite, despite rules calling for public gatherings to be limited to no more than five people.

While Rowley called for the police to take a zero-tolerance approach against similar gatherings, Griffith contended that the police were being "thrown under the bus," by the prime minister, as such actions would not be lawful on people's private properties.

Newsday understands this disagreement was the reason for the letter from the Prime Minister and the PSC had provided Griffith with a copy of Rowley's complaint but took no further action.

Last May, Rowley in a Facebook post said while the Cambridge Analytica scandal was closed by local police it remained "wide open and troubling" in England and America.

Griffith commented on the post saying that he operated on facts and evidence and not by hearsay.

During the media briefing on Saturday, Dr Rowley responded to allegations of interference in the selection process of a police commissioner noting he was well within his right as Prime Minister to communicate with the PSC on matters of urgency as it was his responsibility to do so.

He confirmed the letter on Griffith was one of three correspondences he had with the commission since last year.

"One year ago, in my capacity as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, I wrote to the PSC, a letter under my hand with my signature. The most important thing I can do as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago is to attach my signature to a document.

"That letter was a letter indicating to the commission that as Prime Minister I had lost confidence in the Commissioner of Police of TT. That was one year ago.

"There are things that I deal with publicly and there are things I do not. I could have published that letter a year ago, I could have told you that a year ago. If only because of the situation in the country. Given the interpretation and the conspiracy theories, I only mentioned that in my role as Prime Minister."

For the other two instances where he had communication with the commission, Rowley said one was where information came to him and a sub-unit of the National Security Council (of which he sits as chairman) which was later forwarded to the PSC and the other was where he sought legal advice on whether Griffith was properly appointed to act as CoP after his three-year contract expired.

In the last instance, Rowley said the advice he received was so important he made it available to the commission.

On Thursday, Justice Nadia Kangaloo ruled that the appointments of both Griffith and former acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob were unconstitutional.

In response then, Griffith posted a video to his Facebook page announcing that his days of service to TT were not over and also alleged a conspiracy at work describing it as a "desperation" to have him removed from office.

Rowley declined to comment on these remarks saying, "That is a matter for Mr Griffith and Justice Kangaloo."

Despite receiving the letter a year ago, the PSC approved Griffith to act as commissioner on August 17.

Newsday contacted Griffith who declined to comment on the matter.

Contacted for comment Griffith's attorney Larry Lalla said while he preferred to not comment on the letter until he saw it himself, he felt Rowley's remarks were unfair and tarnished his client's character.

"It is very unfair to Mr Griffith for the Prime Minister to make a comment like that which obviously impugns the character of Mr Griffith in the eyes of the national community without informing the national community in what context he wrote the Police Service Commission, and whether Mr Griffith had any opportunity to defend himself in relation to those comments.

"He's being very unfair to Mr Griffith."

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