Naparima MP Rodney Charles is demanding that this PNM government comes clean and state whether it will desist from undermining other independent arms of Government and instead give due cognizance to the concept of separation of powers – important prerequisites for a maturing democracy.
The separation of powers concept requires that the executive branch understands its co-equal role in governance with the legislative, judicial and also the media. The latter is known as the fourth estate of government.
Charles, the former Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) is warning of a need to be constantly vigilant about the threat to our democracy from an imminent PNM dictatorship. He notes numerous attempts by this Rowley administration to compromise independent institutions including the TTPS, the TTDF, the Integrity Commission and the Police Service Commission.
The reading of a search warrant in Parliament recently by MP Robinson-Regis can be interpreted as the latest in a series of actions by this Keith Rowley administration to undermine our independent institutions. This concern was raised by Oropouche East MP, who through his attorney Israel Khan alleged, in a letter dated October 16th 2017 to PCA director David West, “collusion existed between members of the Police Service and certain politicians to defame opposition members.”
Subverting independent institutions seems to be in the PNM’s DNA.
In 1962, PNM Minister Patrick Solomon went to the Woodbrook Police Station and took his stepson out of police custody and instructed that charges against him be cancelled.
In 2002, a former PNM Prime Minister visited the Marabella Police Station and demanded the release of his civilian driver.
It was former Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma who in a media article dated May 11th 2006, said “I stand firm and resolute in defence of the independence of the judiciary and will continue to do so.
“I refuse to be hounded out of office or bullied by the executive into resigning, when there is absolutely no justification for doing so.”
In an article published in the media on September 10th 2016, Minister of Works and Transport Fitzgerald Hinds is reported to have visited the Belmont Police Station and advocated for the release of a citizen charged by the police. According to reports, Mr. Hinds indicated further that “the law must be our servant and not our master.”
In addition, constant PNM insinuations in Parliament of impending police action against Opposition MPs seem to suggest intimate and prior knowledge of ongoing police investigations.
MP Charles notes that he has also fallen victim to this abuse of power. In June 2014, on a political platform, Mrs. Robinson-Regis read out his private email.
Investigations concerning criminal matters are under the jurisdiction of the TTPS. Involvement of Government Ministers in any such matters reflects a worrisome anti-democratic trend.
MP Charles notes the number of the senior retired TTDF personnel who are now part of this executive. These include: Minister of National Security, retired Major General Edmund Dillion; former Minister of Public Utilities and retired Brigadier General, Ancil Antoine; Brigadier General (Ret’d) Anthony Phillips-Spencer, our US Ambassador; Director of the SSA, retired Colonel George Robinson, former ODPM Deputy Chief Executive Colonel, Dave Williams.
There are just too many ex-military officers in this executive. This is frightening. A former very senior police officer is a junior minister in the Ministry of National Security.
Early in its term this PNM government attempted to become legislatively involved in initiating the appointment process of a Police Commissioner by placing it into the hands of the Minister of National Security, a senior Cabinet member.
The courts ruled against this intrusion by the executive in the constitutionally independent Police Service Commission.
The Naparima MP is calling for a clear statement by the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and his junior, Stuart Young that they are committed to the rule of law, the separation of powers concept and the principles of democracy.
Their actions to date suggest that they need to be constantly reminded that mature judgement, prudence and considered sophistication are necessary prerequisites for governing a complex democracy such as ours.