PM on PSC/police commissioner imbroglio: ‘An error was made’


Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. FILE PHOTO –

THE Prime Minister has publicly weighed in on the ongoing imbroglio involving the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the appointment of a police commissioner by admitting on Thursday that an error had been made.

However, speaking at a press conference, Dr Rowley hastened to add that he has faith the issue can be sorted out via the courts.

The issue surrounds the PSC appointing Gary Griffith to act as police commissioner after his term in office ended, only for the commission to suspend him and appoint McDonald Jacob as acting commissioner, pending the outcome of an investigation.

Griffith has since filed an injunction in which he is asking the courts to compel the PSC to overturn its suspension order so he can return as acting commissioner until a new police commissioner is selected.

The fallout deepened with the resignation on Tuesday of industrial relations expert Courtney McNish as a member of the PSC and calls from several quarters including the Opposition, for all of the PSC members including chairman Bliss Seepersad, to resign.

Newsday asked the PM if he was concerned over the ongoing controversy involving the PSC and the police commissioner issue and also if he still has faith in the process.

“Both aspects are correct. As head of the country and as a citizen, I am very, very concerned and I’m attuned to the situation. More importantly, I’m part of the situation as head of the National Security Council, as head of the Government and as an MP. I’m in a very ticklish position to use that parlance, so yes, I am paying attention to it and have great interest in it.

“You called it an imbroglio. Whatever it is, I still have confidence our institutional arrangements will eventually work us out of the situation and it would be adjudicated upon in the proper place, in the proper way and where errors have been made, they can be rectified without much more bacchanal.

“There has been some loss of confidence. That happens all the time…confidence is interfered with by these developments. But I do have confidence we can work our way out of it.”

Newsday asked what was the error he was referring to.

“I saw in the papers today the legal advice the Government had got from eminent senior counsel. That made it quite clear what the situation was and the Government is not resisting that very seasoned and reasoned position, meaning that an error has been made and that error can be and is to be rectified.”

Retired judge Rolston Nelson gave the Government a legal opinion that whether Griffith’s acting position had been made under Legal Notice 183, or under the Constitution (section 123), the appointment had not got Parliament’s nod and so was invalid.

Rowley also denied any political interference in the matter, saying the Opposition had no moral authority to make such a claim.

“There is no conspiracy of any particular school. What it is, is a serious set of conflicting legal opinions at different locations of the country’s management. Of course, if you have all these gears moving at the same time, it is not surprising that at a time like this some of these gears would be out of mesh.

“Most importantly though, you would have seen – I saw it in today’s newspaper – that Government has conceded that errors have been made or an error has been made in the process. That having been identified, the Government will not hammer home a position based on a premise that a wrong process is a right process.”

Asked if he still has confidence in PSC chairman Seepersad, after McNish’s resignation, Rowley said not every day is a sunny day or a rainy day. But he is hoping each person would rise to the occasion.

Rowley said the current problem had come after Parliament’s efforts to improve the previous state of affairs of a Prime Minister interfacing with the PSC to choose a police commissioner, but conceded, “This situation is far worse than the one we tried to fix. Governance in a country, even a mature country, is an evolving process.”

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