“DON’T HOLD us responsible where we have no authority.”
Those are not our words. Those are the words of the Prime Minister, who on Tuesday launched a special attack on the media as he sought to defend his administration’s handling of crime, absolving himself of most of the blame while side-stepping the issue of badly damaged confidence in both Erla Harewood-Christopher, the top cop, and Fitzgerald Hinds, the Minister of National Security.
Citing two documents, including the 2017 report of the Prof Ramesh Deosaran-led manpower audit committee which this newspaper quoted from mere weeks ago, Dr Rowley feigned indignation at the media’s seeming lack of awareness of matters contained therein.
The PNM political leader adeptly referred to various passages, giving page and paragraph numbers, including Roman numerals, as he sought to establish the Government has a plan. Over the last nine years, he suggested, Cabinet has been guided by the Deosaran report’s call for avoiding hasty measures while addressing manpower deficiencies.
It was all in sharp contrast to the performance of Ms Harewood-Christopher, who, whatever her strengths and weaknesses, undeniably fumbled last week when asked to state basic statistics when she was interrogated by Parliament’s national security committee.
But it might as well have been reporters sitting in the hot seat before that committee, and not Ms Harewood-Christopher.
In the PM’s firing line were the media, the Opposition and, by implication, even the late Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday, who in 2006 together birthed a new process by which a top cop is selected.
It is this process, which removed the prime ministerial veto and widened the role of democratically-elected officials, that Dr Rowley most took umbrage with, noting how it resulted in acting appointments.
Last week, when journalists asked about the Commissioner of Police’s committee faux pas, the PM had said, “let’s talk national security on Tuesday.” The expectation of a substantial briefing was only bolstered when Mr Hinds, on Monday, deferred questions on a new $100 million anti-crime measure until the next day.
In the end, both issues were almost afterthoughts. Dr Rowley said he was not going to publicly evaluate the performance of the top cop, though he did say, “She has a very difficult job.” The $100 million plan, meanwhile, was still being worked on.
At the same time, the PM revealed the Cabinet had the option of giving the top cop a three-year contract last year instead of an annual renewal.
But in exercising this choice, has Cabinet not made Ms Harewood-Christopher, effectively, an acting top cop?
It is not the media who is to blame for that. And it is not the media who, as all manner of heartache unfolds around us in relation to crime, refuses to compromise.