Confusion as House defeats UNC motion on top cop appointments

The Red House.  File photo/Jeff Mayers
The Red House. File photo/Jeff Mayers

THERE was some confusion in the House of Representatives before a private motion filed by Naparima MP Rodney Charles to annul the Commissioner of Police (CoP) and Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) (Selection Process) (No. 2) Orders, 2021, was defeated.

The confusion saw Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar accidentally voting against the motion before quickly calling for a division.

There was also disagreement amongst govermment and opposition MPs about the order in which the vote was tallied.

When the confusion was eventually clarified, the Government defeated the Opposition with a 20-16 vote against the motion.

As Charles concluded the debate, Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George called on MPs to say whether they supported the motion or not. After some muted "yes" responses from opposition MPs to supporting the motion, there were two "no" responses.

One came from Persad-Bissessar, who was not in the chamber for the debate, but had entered to participate in the vote.

Immediately afterwards, Persad-Bissessar and other opposition MPs called for a division (in which MPs are called on by name to say "yes" or "no" one by one).

When she was called on to vote during the subsequent division, Persad-Bissessar said, 'Yes, yes, yes." She showed three fingers to government MPs across the aisle to emphasise this point.

When the clerk initially announced the vote was 20-15, government and opposition MPs argued the order was wrong.

As the vote was reviewed. Annisette-George asked MPs, "Could we have some order?" The clerk later read the vote as 20 against the motion and 16 for it, meaning the motion had failed.

Before the vote was taken, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal wondered why Youth Development and National Service Minister Foster Cummings was the only government MP to speak in the debate.

"No one (from the Government) has responded to the central questions."

Moonilal said one of those questions was why senority would no longer be a criterion for a police officer to be appointed either to act as CoP or as the substantive office holder.

Recalling the history of legislation from 2007 to the present related to the police service, Moonilal said no one disputed that politicians now decide who is appointed CoP, when the matter comes before Parliament.

Referring to police and public service regulations in Jamaica, where seniority is a criterion to determine appointments to key positions there, Moonilal asked if the removal of it in Trinidad and Tobago was in keeping with good practice. He also reminded MPs that under the PNM last year, there was a situation where there was no acting CoP in office.

Moonilal agreed with questions posed by Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally as to whether the decision to make Cummings the lone respondent to the motion was to "undermine his (political ascendancy)."

Scoffing at the PNM's slogan of "Great is the PNM," Charles said Cummings' contribution showed "it is clear that there is no talent on that side." He accused the Government of being arrogant in how it responded to the motion: "We (Government) have nothing to explain."

Charles said last December's Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections, which the PNM lost 14-one, should have taught the Government how people respond to arrogance.

He also said the Government is underestimating the level of distrust in the population over last year's collapse of the Police Service Commission.

Even if the Government does not disclose the reasoning behind the legal notices outlining the selection processes for a CoP and DCPs to the Parliament, Charles hoped the courts would unravel that mystery in the fullness of time.


"Confusion as House defeats UNC motion on top cop appointments"

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