Opposition Leader Response to PM Rowley Request for Meeting on Appointment of a Commissioner of Police
Re: Your request for meeting between the Government and Opposition with respect to the parliamentary appointment of a Commissioner of Police.
I refer to the matter at caption and thank you for your email dated January 30th 2018 inviting the Opposition to meet with the Government on the matter at caption.
I have taken careful note of the reports by the media with respect to the process that was engaged by the Police Service Commission in arriving at the proposed nominees that were submitted to His Excellency for consideration for appointment to the post of Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner. The Opposition is indeed grateful to the media for highlighting issues touching and concerning the process and the suitability of the proposed nominees, in discharging its duty as the fourth estate. We however do not agree that, “what is now awash” in the public domain should be the catalyst for a meeting between the Government and Opposition on such an important matter to the democracy of our country. As you are aware there are many other critical matters that are now, in your words, “awash in the public domain” for example the bloodiest month in the history of our country, the Anti-Gang and Anti- Terrorism legislation and others, that have not necessitated a meeting between the Government and Opposition.
The appointment of a Commissioner of Police is a matter of great and general public importance not only to the Opposition, but to each and every citizen of our Republic. The importance of this appointment was amplified by the changes made by the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2007. The public of Trinidad and Tobago will only repose trust and confidence in a Commissioner who has been appointed by a process that was fair, transparent, open and subject to the highest degree of scrutiny. If the matters that have been reported in the public domain are credible I am sure you will agree that the process employed to select the proposed nominees falls far short of this standard. This has resulted in the trial of the proposed nominees in the court of public opinion even before they are subjected to the process that the law provides for their consideration by the Parliament that is the ultimate decision maker. What “is now awash” in the public domain raises more questions than answers with respect to the process employed and the proposed nominees.
Whilst the Opposition fully respects the independence of the Police Service Commission and the requirement of ensuring it is insulated from political interference in the performance of its functions, the Opposition is of the view that any meaningful dialogue between Government and Opposition on this matter in the present circumstances can only be achieved if there is full disclosure to both Government and Opposition of the details of the process that was employed by the Commission in selecting the proposed nominees. To adopt any other course would not, in the view of the Opposition, be a proper discharge of our duty to uphold the Constitution and the law, abide by the rule of law and protect the public interest. Embarking on any debate in the Parliament on this matter without full disclosure will also be futile, in the present circumstances.
Our present constitutional arrangements do not vest in either the Government or the Opposition the power to compel the Police Service Commission to disclose the details of the process that was engaged in selecting the proposed nominees and the information that was considered by the Commission in arriving at their decision. In those circumstances a meeting between the Government and Opposition will achieve little if anything at all.
Having carefully considered all that has transpired I respectfully suggest that the public interest requires that there be full disclosure by the Police Service Commission in this matter. This can be achieved by both the Government and the Opposition approaching his Excellency with a suggestion that the public interest requires that the Commission make full disclosure of all the material that was considered in this matter to both the Government and Opposition in order for the Parliament to effectively discharge its duty in this matter.
Further, a Special Select Committee of the House of Representatives should be established to expeditiously inquire into and report to the House on this matter. Such a Committee will be empowered under the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives to summon the Commission before it and to secure the disclosure of all relevant material that was considered by the Commission in arriving at its decision. In order to expedite the process, a fixed reporting timeline can be determined, and relevant resources made available to the Committee. I trust that you will see the wisdom of adopting these approaches.
The appointment of a Commissioner of Police is a matter that must be addressed forthwith especially in light of the unprecedented level of criminality that our citizens have been experiencing since the start of 2018. For the reasons that I have outlined herein I am respectfully of the view that any meeting on this particular matter at this time will not be productive and our time would be better utilized by adopting the suggested approaches.
I await your response.