The motion presented by Opposition Senator Wade Mark for the annulment of Legal Notices 277 and 278 of 2021 was not carried in the Senate on Tuesday. Six senators voted in favour of the motion, while 21 voted against, and there were no abstentions.
The legal notices dealt with the Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Process) (No. 2) Order, 2021 and the Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Process) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order, 2021.
One of the main topics under discussion were whether or not seniority was to be considered in the appointment of the positions, with Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi stating that the requirement that the most senior person on the merit list be chosen was removed so the Police Service Commission (PSC) would have more scope for choice in choosing someone who could fill the position.
Among those agreeing with him were Independent Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye, who said sticking to seniority has caused many problems in organisations in the past; government senator Clarence Rambharat, who said that the changes did not change the role or authority of the PSC; and Independent Senator Varma Deyalsingh, who said this gave the PSC more leeway in choosing someone to be temporarily appointed to the posts.
Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial said seniority was built into the police service.
“The police service is an institution that operates on instructions from seniors. Seniority is rank and regimental number, they respect that, it’s part of their culture. If seniority is not the main criterion, the PSC will randomly pick someone and then the others on the merit list challenge the appointment. There are many instances of officers challenging merit lists. We don’t want to create legislation which will create havoc.”
Another issue raised was whether the legal notices allowed for interference by government into the selection of the CoP and acting CoP, argued for by Senators Anil Roberts, who said the government was trying to change the rules for its benefit, and Lutchmedial, who said transparency in the selection process was important.
A third major issue was whether the legal notices were in alignment with section 122 and 123 of the Constitution.
Independent Senator Maria Dillon-Remy said the spectacle surrounding the legal notices did not look good for the Parliament, while Deyalsingh said the failure to have the CoP and Deputy CoP appointed in a timely manner left room for a lot of confusion and debate.
In his closing contribution, Mark said the Opposition’s role was to ensure there was no undue influence by government in the selection of the CoP and acting CoP, both now and in future.