Ex-police officer: CoPs, DCPs should be elected

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher. - File photo by Roger Jacob
Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher. - File photo by Roger Jacob

THE Commissioner of Police (CoP) and deputy police commissioners (DCPs) should be elected by the public and be accountable to them.

Barry Garcia, a former police officer made this comment at a public consultation held by the National Advisory Committee on Constitutional Reform (NACCR) at San Fernando City Hall auditorium on April 18.

Garcia told the committee that he was a police officer for 33 years.

While there were many dedicated officers in the service, Garcia believed there were some who sought their own interests as opposed to doing their duty.

He did not believe the current system to select CoPs and DCPs, involving the Police Service Commission and the Parliament, selected the best people to fill those posts.

Garcia said the Constitution should be reformed so that CoPs and DCPs "must be elected by the public."

He added such would ensure they would be scrutinised by the members of the public in the performance of their duties.

Garcia suggested the Constitution be reformed to allow for an executive president, senators must be elected, recalls for non-perfoming MPs, MPs should not be cabinet ministers and members of a cabinet should be chosen from the brightest people in society.

He questioned why state enterprises were not directly accountable to the public.

Owing to the composition of parliamentary joint select committees (JSCs), Garcia continued, the government members protected the companies while the opposition members attacked them.

He said at the end of that process, no one was certain whether the companies had properly accounted for their actions.

Garcia suggested state companies account directly to the people through the 14 local government corporations which represent people at the base of society.

He was uncertain whether any government was serious about constitutional reform.

Former NAR government senator Leonard Bradshaw said the Constitution should be reformed to allow fixed election dates, an executive president and fixed terms of office for that president and his cabinet.

Denison Jagessar said the Constitution should be reformed so no situation could arise where politicians could entrench themselves for life in government or opposition.

"In the Parliament there is no conscience. People vote like sheep.Where is the humanity in the thing?"

Jagessar said the Constitution should be reformed to remove the parliamentary whips on the government and opposition members, so they could speak and vote their conscience on certain matters of national importance.

He also said privileges should be removed on parliamentarians speaking, so they could face legal repercussions for their statements in Parliament and not unfairly attack ordinary citizens without consequences.

"What is the difference between them and us?" Jagessar asked.

Dumaris Horsely said for constitutional reform to be effective, the committee should go to all 41 constituencies and not to certain selected areas.

Valmiki Ramsingh said the Constitution should be reformed so there would be fixed terms of office for an executive president, speaker of the House of Representatives and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Ramsingh called for the Law Association to have authority under the Constitution to appoint the Chief Justice and senior members of the Judiciary.

Sekoo Bastien did not think the Constitution was nimble enough to address evolving matters like climate change.

He suggested the Constitution be changed to include a climate-change committee.

Bastien said while there had been much discussion about constitutional amendments over the years, he was uncertain if there would ever been implementation of such amendments.

Ricky Matthews said he had attended previous constitutional reform fora.

He believed most people did not want to give their views at these fora but wanted someone in authority there "to speak for them."

Matthews said he would be happy if someone at the forum would address his constitutional concerns.

The committee is chaired by former speaker of the House of Representatives, Barendra Sinanan, SC.

Other members of the committee are former speaker Nizam Mohammed, former Central Bank deputy governor Dr Terrence Farrell, former Tobago House of Assembly chief administrator Raye Sandy, former independent senator Helen Drayton, former clerk of the House Jacqui Sampson-Meiguel, former Public Service Commission chairman and permanent secretary in the Agriculture Ministry Winston Rudder and accountant Hema Narinesingh.

April 15 was the deadline for members of the public to submit their recommendations for constitutional reform to the committee.

The Prime Minister announced a national consultation on constitutional reform at a news conference on January 18.

Dr Rowley said he believed it was an appropriate time to evaluate, amend and generally upgrade the Constitution, as many people had called for it.

“What Cabinet approved was an advisory committee to formulate the terms of reference and to make recommendations to Cabinet within three months of its appointment for the promoting and convening of a national constitutional conference and consultation in June of 2024, taking into consideration the diverse nature of our national society, its historical evolution, and the progress made in nationhood since attaining independence and republican status, and matters related thereto.”

He said the committee should incorporate and outline the parameters of the subject for national debate and engage the widest cross-section of people and bodies representing the citizenry, including the diaspora.

“These are not people being asked to craft a constitution. They are simply being asked to facilitate and advance a national discourse on the subject and to be the sounding board, the post office, into which any and all interested parties, agencies (and) organisations will want to put their views to this facility advisory committee.”

He said the committee members would get the support and resources to hold open consultations and collate and draft a working document for a constitutional conference in June, when proposed amendments will be discussed.


"Ex-police officer: CoPs, DCPs should be elected"

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