Government, Opposition Remain at Odds Over Appointment of New Police Chief

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The government and opposition are still at odds over the appointment of a new police commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago.

This is so, despite the appointment of a joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament to probe the circumstances that led to the Police Service Commission’s (PSC) process earlier this year.

Trinidad and Tobago has been without a substantive police commissioner and deputy ever since Canadian-born Dwayne Gibbs and his compatriot Jack Ewatski resigned with more than a year of their three-year contracts remaining in 2012.

The PSC had announced that Deputy Commissioner of Police, Deodat Dulalchan and Harold Phillips had been selected to the two top posts, but amid widespread disagreement over the selection, the JSC was established to examine the process.

In a report submitted to Parliament Friday, the JSC said that the process was defective and they want a review of that order, but two Opposition members say the PSC acted in good faith and restarting the selection process would be a “colossal waste of money.”

The two opposition legislators – Ganga Singh and Roodal Moonilal – said they hadn’t seen the finished report, and wanted to submit a minority report, which was denied by the Speaker.

JSC chairman Fitzgerald Hinds, who laid the report in Parliament, said he was surprised at the statements made by the opposition legislators, who had never brought such concerns to the committee.

In the report, the government legislators said they believed the direct involvement of PSC members in the assessment stage of the process wasn’t what was contemplated in the order made under the Constitution.

“Additionally, having regard to observations and findings, the committee considers that in many respects the manner in which the entire process was conducted by the PSC was defective and unreliable and may expose the PSC to allegations of arbitrariness and lack of transparency.”

The report acknowledged that there wasn’t full consensus on their conclusions, noting that “ a minority of members believe there was no fundamental breach of the law beginning with an open tender and ending with a strategy that allowed for a unanimous method of selection, and that the flaws in the process weren’t fundamental so as to that rendered it unfair and arbitrary.”

The report laid in Parliament recommended “that the order made pursuant to Section 123 (2) of the Constitution should be subject to urgent review with the view to the establishment of well-defined guidelines for the selection of a CoP and DCoP.”

In denying the opposition the opportunity to lay its minority report, Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George said all legislators would have an opportunity to speak on the report when it is debated. – CMC

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