The actions of Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar in seeking and obtaining the resignations of AG Ramlogan and Minister Griffiths have been perhaps the most formidable display of a PM in independent Trinidad and Tobago. Never before in our young nation’s history has such iron been displayed in addressing with such attention the immediate needs of the country and the executive. It is in stark contrast to the position with the former PNM AG John Jeremie where he continued in office despite serious allegations of wrong doing. If there was any doubt of the ability of the PM in putting country before self, any such doubt has been dispelled.
The PM was given two clear options. The first was to do nothing and allow the allegations and the media frenzy to be played out to the general election thus influencing its outcome. The second was to take decisive action to ensure that the dispute between West, Ramlogan and Griffith, it being between them, be settled outside of executive duties with which they were in conflict. The first option was for obvious reasons untenable. The second could only have been achieved if the PM possessed the strength of character, lest the detractors make mischief and the political detractors make political stock. As they say in TT ‘give Jack his jacket’ (or in this instance Jane) because the PM’s call was the right one.
The allegations made by PCA Director David West as a witness for Opposition Leader Dr Rowley are deeply concerning. As Ramlogan’s accuser he has placed himself as a man in support of the PNM leader in a highly politicised and publicised High Court case against, now, a former AG diametrically opposed to the PNM. Yet he was appointed to a public office that required consultation with the PM and Dr Rowley before that appointment could be made. In these circumstances, did Dr Rowley not realise that this was an important consideration before West was appointed? Surely West’s role as a witness in his case was known before the statement was filed as one would expect, and if so why was West even recommended?
That said, did West not realise that if appointed to public office he would have been inevitably put on the spot as a witness in a case with inherent political connotations? Having held public office under the PNM administration this must have been objectively obvious. And yet he took the appointment apparently seeing no problem with it at all. For a lawyer this is extraordinary.
Against this background and in light of West’s specific allegation against the AG surely West must know that he cannot continue as PCA Director. The considerations that applied to Ramlogan and Griffiths as public officer holders in light of a pending criminal investigation, apply equally to West. The PM was right to point out that as a quasi-judicial appointment who oversees allegations of misconduct by police, it is inconsistent for him to remain in his post where a criminal investigation by police is to be carried out. More importantly, from the other side if Ramlogan is right in his denials of West’s allegations, then West can easily become the person of interest to the police as opposed to Ramlogan.
Wherever the investigation goes the reality is that West’s position as PCA Director is untenable. If he remains in post it will create the perception, rightly or wrongly, that his role and duties may favour the police to curry favour with them in decisions he may make. If he makes decisions against the police it might be said he is doing so to show he has not been compromised by the denials and counter allegations of Ramlogan. Suffice it to say no quasi-judicial public officer holder should be in this position – and there is still the connection to the PNM leader in his High Court case.
For the public, where many complaints of police excesses are covered by the media and come to the PCA Director they deserve not just an independent and impartial director, but the appearance of one. As the saying goes justice must not simply be done, it must be manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. Accordingly, West should take note of the PM’s remarks and tender his resignation forthwith.