THE Prime Minister in September 2020 put pen to paper to raise with the former Police Service Commission (PSC) matters he said caused him serious concern on former commissioner Gary Griffith’s suitability to continue to hold the office of commissioner.
The letter was disclosed to social activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj in reply to a freedom of information request.
In the letter, Dr Rowley referred to a statement he made at a covid19 press briefing on September 12, 2021, on his expectation that the law as it related to breaches of the pandemic relation would apply to every citizen. He was questioned at the time about a private pool gathering in Westmoorings.
He said in relation to his statements about the police, it appeared his discourse was interpreted by Griffith as being “offensive to him” and he made his “own interpretation and embarked on a course of behaviour that is most unbecoming of a commissioner,” Rowley told the commission.
He said he received a series of messages from Griffith that evening taking issue with what he said, “and the content of these messages was disrespectful to the Office of the Prime Minister and betrayed a lack of balance expected from an officer in his position.”
Rowley said the next day Griffith continued messaging in a “challenging, aggressive and somewhat disrespectful manner.” He said Griffith also made “very inappropriate comments and statements” to the public in a radio interview in which “he used insulting and disrespectful language with reference to me suggesting amongst other things I was racist and a hypocrite,” the Prime Minister went on to say.
Rowley said he requested a meeting with Griffith and DCPs Forde and Jacob along with the Attorney General and Minister of National Security. That meeting was held on September 14, 2020, and the Prime Minister said he was “disturbed” by Griffith’s behaviour and found it to be “unacceptable and intolerable.”
He said at the meeting with Griffith and the DCPs, he recorded that in all his 40 years of public service, he had never known a Commissioner of Police to publicly engage a Prime Minister and “certainly not in the manner that Mr Griffith had done in the previous days.
“I told Mr Griffith that he had publicly accused me of being a hypocrite, of encouraging the TTPS to breach the Constitution, of being a racist, and of being incompetent as I did not seek advice. I advised that I was not engaging in any debate on public and private property but that I spoke about enforcing the law as it exists. I had to point out that a law that does not exist cannot be ‘enforced’. I also emphasised that I do not give instructions to the TTPS. I suggested to Mr Griffith that it would be advisable for him to take a step back and do some reflecting and we would move forward and consider the unfortunate occurrence to be ‘water under the bridge’.”
He said he told Griffith he would write to the PSC to record what took place as he was “not prepared to tolerate the disrespect to the Office of the Prime Minister’”.
In October 2021, at a media briefing, Dr Rowley spoke of the 2020 letter he sent to the PSC and of him losing confidence in Griffith.
In the letter, Rowley also spoke of Griffith’s reaction to a news release from the Office of the Prime Minister which said he attended a meeting “summoned” by the Prime Minister’.
“The word ‘summoned’ appeared to have upset Mr Griffith and he issued a press release to that effect,’ the Prime Minister said.
He also said the “worrisome” behaviour continued and he again received “disrespectful and threatening” messages from Griffith relative to a newspaper report and also went on television saying he could not be summoned by a Prime Minister and “carried on publicly in a manner unbecoming of a Commissioner of Police.”
“Even after the public barrage he continued in his worrisome communication to me,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister also shared a complaint he received from the director of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) of Griffith’s accusations against him and the action he took.
He told the PSC he had to, “on more than one occasion,” quietly caution Griffith about the way he responds to the public and the need to acknowledge the portfolio and responsibility of the line minister.
“None of this seems to influence any improvement in his approach and his current mission to publicly engage the Prime Minister, demanding a remedy of retraction of a clear and simple statement of long-standing policy, is but the latest in a pattern of behaviour which is now the subject of national disquiet.”
He again said the matters were the cause of concern to him and indicated a level of “instability and unsuitability for a person holding the office of Commissioner of Police. A dangerous and unacceptable precedent has been set and cannot be nurtured nor tolerated.”
He continued, “I take no pleasure in being forced to pen this missive to you. In fact, it is with a sense of great disappointment and regret that I have brought the Commission into this but only to advise you that I have lost confidence in the Commissioner and do not know what to expect of him going forward.
‘The National Security Council is one of the most sensitive institutional arrangements of State in the country and cannot be expected to be populated by any officer who is irrational, erratic, disrespectful, accusatory and unreliable.”
Griffith has publicly spoke of an alleged a conspiracy at work and a “desperation” to have him removed from office.
In December, he also said in an interview with activist Inshan Ishmael, he was forced to “put’ the Prime Minister in his place as he “kept interfering.”
He also said he was an independent commissioner and wasn’t going to have anyone direct him wrongfully.