THE Police Service Commission (PSC) is seeking legal advice on if it can discard the August 2021 merit list and begin the selection process for a police commissioner all over again.
In a brief interview last week, PSC chairman, retired judge Judith Jones, said the matter was now under legal scrutiny.
Asked if the new PSC will consider sending the merit list, which had been submitted to the president by former chairman Bliss Seepersad, and rescinded, to President Paula-Mae Weekes, Jones said, "I can't tell you that sir, I’m afraid it's a legal matter and we have to get legal advice.”
Asked if the PSC received the advice, she said, “I can't tell you. I just have no comment to make.”
The previously prepared list was submitted to the President on August 11, but it was later withdrawn, Weekes said in a public statement on the collapse of the former Seepersad-led commission.
She said, as a result, there was no list she could send to the Parliament.
"To date no other list has since been submitted. The OTP (Office of the President) has been advised that 'the recruitment and selection process for the Office of Commissioner of Police has not yet been completed.'" she said in her statement in October.
Jones and a new commission were sworn in on November 16, but there has been no information on the merit list.
The process can’t restart until Parliament agrees to accept Legal Notice 277 of 2021.
Leader of Government Business in the House, Camille Robinson-Regis said the notice will be brought to Parliament at the earliest opportunity. The notice replaces two previous notices – Legal Notice 183 of 2021 and Legal Notice 103 of 2009.
This became necessary after Justice Nadia Kangaloo ruled the two pieces of subsidiary legislation, regarding the acting appointment of a commissioner of police, were void and unconstitutional. As a result of the ruling, the appointments of former commissioner Gary Griffith as acting top cop, and McDonald Jacob, also as acting commissioner when Griffith was suspended, was deemed void because neither appointment was approved by the Parliament.
The new Legal Notice 277 mandates that only serving police officers can act as police commissioner and with the consent of Parliament.
Griffith, who has repeatedly called on the Jones-led PSC to submit the August 2021 merit list to the President, said to abort that list will be “blatant cowardice on the part of the Government.”
In an e-mail response to Newsday, Griffith said there was absolutely no reason, or excuse, to have the list scrapped.
“No one is putting the Government on the spot by asking them on what grounds could they justify abusing their position to scrap a bonafide merit list as there was absolutely nothing done incorrectly to justify scrapping it.”
He said that list list would have shown that he was in a favourable position with an approval rating from the public higher than his competitors.
“They knew it was political suicide for them to go to Parliament to say that they were rejecting someone who most of the country wanted and say that they were rejecting him because he may have become more popular than the Government.
"Or try to use lies as an excuse to reject him, as they tried in their failed character assassination campaign for the last few months. Instead, they decided to take away the authority from the present PSC to decide if to bring the present merit list forward by legally abusing their authority and scrap the merit list.”
Last month, Griffith's attorney Larry Lalla wrote to Jones for an update on the status of the merit list.
Lalla said Griffith had a legitimate expectation that the merit list of candidates for commissioner would be re-submitted to the President. Lalla said Griffith had “serious concerns” about the constitutionality and lawfulness of the withdrawal of the merit list.
“To date, Mr. Griffith, as a candidate for the post of Commissioner of Police, has not been informed by the PSC of the reason why the completed merit list was withdrawn or its present status.”
Since the court's ruling in October, TT has been without a police commissioner. However, deputy commissioner Jacob made accounting officer of the police service.