House to debate motion on 2nd-ranked COP nominee

Government has changed its mind and agreed to debate the new notification for nomination of acting DCP Harold Phillip for the post of Commissioner of Police after the Police Service Commission (PSC) cited several reasons why the matter should be debated.

On Tuesday, Government had refused to entertain debate on the notification, but within 24 hours, agreed to debate the matter next Monday.

The turnabout came after Government—belatedly—perused recent information from PSC chairman Bliss Seepersad on notification of Philip’s nomination.

Seepersad pointed out that according to regulations (Legal Notice 218 of 2015 ) which governs the process, the second-ranked candidate on the Merit List is nominated for the post of CoP if the first is not accepted.

Philip was the second-ranked after acting DCP Deodat Dulalchan who was recently nominated for CoP. In Parliamentary debate on the issue last month, however, notification of Dulalchan’s nomination was rejected by Government which said the PSC’s process was flawed.

In that debate also, Government rejected the notification of nomination regarding Philip for deputy CoP. Government said the process had to be reviewed.

However, in Parliament on Tuesday—just before the annual recess was announced—Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis said she was “informed by the Clerk that a document” had come to the Parliament regarding notification for appointment to the post of CoP. This was a new notification after the failed process regarding Dulalchan.

Robinson-Regis said Parliament recently determined the PSC’s process in this matter was lacking in transparency and “that one can come to no other conclusion than the Commission did a job which cannot be explained and which was wholly unreliable.” Consequently, Robinson-Regis said any recommendations from that flawed process” cannot and will not be accepted” and she had instructed the Clerk “this matter will not be proceeded with.”

However, UNC MP Ganga Singh said her announcement was a subversion of the Constitution and walked out of Parliament. Robinson-Regis later stood by her position saying there was nothing stopping the Opposition, if they wished, to debate the matter—but Government maintained the process was flawed. Guardian Media understands that after Tuesday’s sitting there were Government discussions on the issue including on a July 1 letter from PSC chairman

Seepersad and PSC’s new notification of nomination regarding Phillip which was dated July 2. The information prompted Government’s move to debate the nomination next Monday.

Commenting on the developments yesterday, Singh said, The Leader of Government Business “clearly erred in seeking to instruct the Clerk of the House not to proceed with the notification from the President, that’s why I spoke out against the subversion of the Constitution and usurping of Parliament’s power to debate the process. The Speaker also erred in allowing an impermissible intrusion on Parliament’s role in this matter.”

“Their action created gridlock between the constitutionally entrenched PSC, the President and Parliament. It demonstrates Government’s incompetence and insidious attempts to stymie democracy and ‘strongarm’ the Parliament’s processes. The Speaker attempted to give me a ‘red card’ when the ‘foul’ was really committed by Government. It’s clear: democracy requires eternal vigilance.”

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar added “Once again, we see the gross incompetence and deceit of this Rowley Government. Government has now backed down on that position following the Opposition’s strong objections.

They cannot unilaterally decide they will not proceed with Parliamentary debate on the President’s Notification—the law must be followed.

PSC chair: No money to redo entire process

Parliament confirmed the Secretary to the President wrote the Clerk of the House on Tuesday, enclosing Seepersad’s July 1 letter, plus the July 2 new notification.

In Seepersad’s letter which noted the failure of the process regarding Dulalchan, she said Senior Counsel advised the Commission that the existing Merit List on the issue is still valid and the process stipulated in Legal Notice 218 (16 December 2015) dictates the PSC should submit the next highest ranking candidate on the Merit List for the post of CoP.

Seepersad noted Phillip was the second-ranked name on the Merit List presented by the previous Commission.

Seepersad cited the state of the economy, adding PSC “simply doesn’t have the money, time and other resources to allocate to conducting a completely new process.”

Seepersad noted the rising crime rate and “unprecedented” length of time since T&T has had an appointed CoP. She cited an “untenable” situation where all top positions in the Police Service are held by people acting in the posts.

As a result of the information, Robinson-Regis, yesterday announced the decision to debate the new notification on Monday.

“Despite the concerns shared by both sides of the House regarding the flawed process, the advice of Senior Counsel is that the merit list remains valid. The government will, therefore, move to act in continuation of the process,” she said.

Source: (Gail Alexander)

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