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Questioning the PSC

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Now that the Police Service Commission is being questioned publicly about how it arrived at its recommendations for the positions of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police, T&T’s political culture took a new twist in the direction of transparency for Service Commissions.

Having for long been the bastion of secrecy in how they arrive at their decisions to appoint, promote, transfer and discipline public officers in general, the Police Service Commission was put on a different plane back in 2006 following the enactment of a suite of legislation then. That suite included a constitutional amendment that inserted a modified Washington model of having presidential notifications ratified or refused by the House of Representatives for the appointments of members of the Police Service Commission and for the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners of Police.

The clear intent of the 2006 constitutional amendment was to keep the political directorate out of the process until the very end when elected MPs would get to vote on whomsoever was nominated by the President on the recommendation of the PSC.

In the pre-2006 format, the Prime Minister would have indicated his/her objection, behind closed doors, to any proposal from the PSC. An appointment would either have been made or rejected based on that opinion depending on how long it took the Prime Minister to respond.

With Prime Minister Rowley now being put in the position of an observer, like the rest of the public, he desperately reached out to Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar last Thursday to have a pre-sitting meeting between small teams from the Government and the Opposition to discuss the nomination of Deodath Dulalchan by President Carmona for the post of Commissioner of Police.

His motivation for seeking the meeting was his concern that the public domain was “awash” with commentary about Dulalchan. Persad-Bissessar hit back saying she would not attend such a meeting, but rather wanted a Special Select Committee of the House of Representatives to hear from the PSC about how they arrived at their recommendation.

The insertion of open and more transparent transactions in the process of Service Commissions is the way to go. Some possible reforms to be considered for the future should include (i) the nominees of the President being brought before the Joint Select Committee on National Security for questioning before being voted in the House of Representatives, and, (ii) that vote should be elevated to a three-fifths majority to ensure higher level consensus.

The current Government has been adamant that it wanted to settle the issue of a permanent Commissioner of Police and stop the repeated acting appointments in that office that have been consistent since 2012.

In seeking to accomplish this, they introduced some regulations in December 2015 that ensured that only citizens of T&T could be appointed. Having accomplished that goal, they appear, on the surface, to be uncomfortable with the citizen who has been recommended for the position of Commissioner of Police, Deodath Dulalchan. Sometimes, you need to careful about what you whish for, you just might get it !

Concurrent with all of the public controversy being generated by the media about Dulalchan comes word that the Police Service Commission has been short of one member for almost a year. So with the great anxiety to settle the appointment of a Commissioner of Police pushing the process, little attention was paid to the fact that the PSC itself was deficient of one member.

That is nothing new in T&T’s Service Commission sector as it recalls a similar reality in the Judicial and Legal Service Commission where judges were being appointed by a JLSC that was one member short.

The real issue is whether the political directorate wants Dulalchan or not. Over to the House of Representatives vote. What will it be ? Yea or nay.


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