The Police Service Commission will be on its last leg today—literally.
The second to last remaining PSC member, Roger Kawalsingh, is resigning after the commission collapsed last Saturday with the resignation of a second member, Dr Susan Craig-James.
This was confirmed by Guardian last Saturday and again yesterday.
After Kawalsingh’s resignation letter reaches the President this morning, it leaves embattled PSC chairman Bliss Seepersad alone in the PSC which effectively collapsed on Saturday with Craig-James’ resignation, on the heels of Courtney McNish’s departure last Tuesday.
Seepersad yesterday didn’t respond to Guardian Media queries on whether she too will resign.
Kawalsingh, McNish and Craig-James all disagreed with Seepersad’s handling of issues that arose after the PSC began selection of a Police Commissioner in June. The overall issue has been mired in a firestorm of problems, including legal matters and criticism, leaving the PSC’s credibility shot.
The latest issue was the PSC rescinding its letter for acting Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to take administrative leave. Griffith remains on leave until the investigation, which the PSC hired retired justice Stanley John to conduct, is completed. John is doing fact-finding on T&T Police Service issues, including on the issuing of firearms users licences (FULs).
But the other commissioners’ key concern had been absence of legal advice to guide them on the decision for Griffith to be sent on leave and whether PSC had the power to act on this, considering the Constitution’s provisions and if PSC did, how sending him on leave should be done.
Kawalsingh’s resignation letter - two pages and a bit more—details to the President his reasons for resigning.
Kawalsingh who’d documented his concerns on the CoP issues to Seepersad in many instances, was known to have been very upset with the situation. Emails he’d sent to Seepersad demonstrating the conflict within the commission were leaked last week.
Once there’s no PSC, experts told Guardian Media that another will have to be appointed and John’s probe may also collapse.
Exactly when an all-new PSC materialises is a question that remains unanswered for now.
Saturday’s announcement from President’s House of Craig-James’ resignation noted the PSC’s lack of quorum, adding, “There is a notification which is with Parliament at this time and the Office of the President will make every effort to fill the two recent vacancies at the soonest.”
Yesterday, the Office of the President also responded to the UNC’s claim that there was “no notification with Parliament at this time” for a new PSC commissioner and “no consultation had taken place with the Opposition Leader.”
The President’s office, standing by its position, reiterated that a notification is with Parliament at this time. “Her Excellency issued a notification dated June 10, 2020, in respect of Mr Vincel Edwards as a nominee for Member of the PSC in compliance with Section 122 (4). It was sent to Parliament by the Secretary to the President on the same day, June 10, 2020, for debate by the House of Representatives.
“Moreover, the notification was sent to Parliament only after consultation, by letter of June 5, 2020, with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition as stipulated by the Constitution.
“It is our understanding that the Leader of Government Business, having given a directive during the last sitting of Parliament that the notification be placed on the Order Paper for the next sitting, the notification is currently with the Clerk of the House for placing on the Order Paper.”
There had been newspaper reports of Edwards’ nomination in 2020.
Edwards is a retired deputy CoP and had investigated the Day of Total Policing which shut down T&T in March 2015 during his tenure. Edwards, a white-collar crime specialist, is the group legal and technical adviser at private security firm Pro-Tec Intelligence Service.
On when the notification might be debated, Government officials confirmed yesterday that “at this time,” no House of Representatives sitting’s planned to do so.
The next sitting’s expected to be October 4, when the 2022 Budget will be presented. That’s followed by three weeks of debate in the Upper and Lower Houses and Finance Committee examinations. Normal Parliamentary business isn’t done in that period.
They should have resigned already—Saddam
Police Service Commission chairman Bliss Seepersad and member Roger Kawalsingh should have resigned since yesterday, UNC MP Saddam Hosein said yesterday.
Detailing the PSC’s blunders in the handling of the Gary Griffith matter, Hosein also demanded the resignation of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi whom he blamed for formulating Legal Notice 183 on the CoP appointment. Hosein also raised queries he insisted the President must answer.
Hosein cited Seepersad’s “highhandedness” based on reports of the commissioners’ letters on her refusal to conform with the majority agreement of the PSC.
“Bliss blistered the process…there’s been a battery of blunders. T&T has lost confidence in PSC if so many blunders have been made in CoP selection processes,” Hosein said.
Hosein said it was also a conflict of interest for Seepersad to have headed PSC when she was on the Chaguaramas Development Authority’s board appointed by Government.
“She was a political appointee enjoying the Prime Minister’s confidence. But a political appointee can’t head an independent institution!”
Hosein said Kawalsingh is also an attorney for Vincent Nelson, who has criminal charges in court on alleged legal fees paid by the Attorney General’s Office. H claimed Kawalsingh received “multi-million briefs” from the AG’s office under Al-Rawi.
He only broke his silence when there was public outrage. When T&T is under a state of emergency and a CoP has far-reaching powers, we have two acting CoPs and can’t appoint a Commissioner – PSC has destroyed all credibility in processes to appoint a CoP,” Hosein said.