The latest attempt by the Prime Minister to attack me, by once again using his most ardent media support team at the Express, is straight out of the PNM playbook.
The article was almost identical to what Ria Taitt printed a few months ago, when the headline screamed the very same thing. One wonders if the need to distract by repeating almost verbatim what was already published is not, what many are describing as a ‘distraction’, from the numerous issues of National importance, including the calamitous mismanagement of the Paria matter, which saw the loss of life of four divers. This time, however, the Prime Minister went one step further confirming his role in directly issuing an instruction to what should have been an Independent Body; the Police Service Commission.
Based upon the Prime Minister’s comments, what is equally alarming and unfortunate is that a Prime Minister does not know what is required to measure the performance of a Police Commissioner. If he did, he would have looked at the following –
• Public Trust and confidence of the Police Service being 14 % when I started my tour of duty, rising to 55% on my departure. Perhaps the Express should undertake a similar poll to review the numbers now.
• One of the two major measurements of performance of a Police Commissioner is the view of the public, and when polled, 89 % of the public asked for me to return, or had no issue with me returning. Keith Rowley deliberately ignored or did not care about their views; instead he used his personal view. This is not leadership.
• The other major measurement is crime reduction – In my last full year, it was the highest reduction in crime in decades, with every major crime, including murders, being reduced by over 35%. On my departure, the ratio was set at less than 340 murders per annum. Since my departure, it has risen to over 600 per annum. But such bloodshed seems to be secondary to Keith Rowley when he measures the performance of a Police Commissioner.
• The annual assessments of a Police Commissioner are also to be used. The Police Service Commission had 77 assessments annually. Almost everyone, I was graded from very good to excellent.
However, these critical factors were irrelevant to Keith Rowley.
He instead decided to use reports which were done by retirees with no firearm investigative qualifications, and who were appointed by the state, that were full of allegations and accusations, but no evidence, as a red herring excuse to remove a sitting COP.
He also exposed his ignorance in understanding the role of a Prime Minister, and having worked with 3 previous Prime Ministers, I am well qualified to make such an assessment. In contrast to PM Rowley, all had the knowledge to know that constant dialogue with the COP was critical, as there were constant matters outside the Ministry of National Security that requires the Prime Minister’s input and support. When I was Minister of National Security, I in fact had 3 times less meetings with the COP than he had with the then Prime Minister, who he met almost on a weekly basis. Whilst delegating authority is important, it is also a way for some to shirk their responsibilities, and to avoid doing actual work.
The Prime Minister’s version of me “playing the fool” amounts to me refusing to have the Constitutional rights of citizens breached when there was pressure for me to arrest them in their homes. He either doesn’t understand the difference between private and public property, or he didn’t actually read the public health regulations his government proclaimed at the time, which didn’t give police officers the legal basis for arresting citizens at their homes.
Me “playing the fool”, also involved me refusing to be pressured by any Government official to target and prioritize my investigations towards political opponents. As an example, the TTPS received 40 million TT, but this was to hire foreign attorneys who they selected. In contrast, we were not given a cent to maintain the Police Service for the first few months of every fiscal year, on top of which they reduced the annual Police budget by over 300 million TT, in a time when due to Covid and a State of Emergency, the cost for goods and services could have doubled.
But let us not be fooled. Getting reports from members of Cabinet of a Prime Minister, who early last year stated that if he could get “10 Gary Griffiths,” he can fix the country, and then directing that the law be changed to ensure that I can remain to act as COP, blows away any argument he puts forward of the PM being disappointed in me, losing confidence in me, and seeing me as “playing the fool.”
This means it was something else, and I am sure it involved persons whispering in his ears to ignore the true measurements of the performance of a Police Commissioner because they were afraid for their political future.
The thing is, the constitution gives the PM all the power to decide who becomes Commissioner of Police, so he could have simply allowed the list to go to parliament, as it was constitutionally supposed to, and within a matter of weeks the PM could have refused to reappoint me and appointed another. Instead he chose the way he did which created a whole set of chaos and confusion, that not only leaves Bliss Seepersad open to allegations of misbehavior in public office, but it also embroiled the President and the President’s office, who may also face serious questions given the fact the PM has now openly admitted to interfering with constitutionally independent process of the PSC.
The PM needs to answer why he chose the way he did, which has embroiled the country and institutions in chaos and confusion for seven months running, instead of respecting the independence of the process and using his constitutional power to select someone besides me.
Seepersad will also have questions to answer like if she listened and took a directive from Rowley, which it appears she did, because she withdrew the Merit list mere hours after giving it to the President. This suggests that the merits of the report was not the reason for her actions, because a couple of hours is simply not enough time for her to read, digest and analyze such a report, as well as for her to share the report with her fellow Commissioners, which she was also duty bound to do, before a decision for the pulling back of the Merit list could be made.
Even more telling is that reports suggest that for a month and a half after Seepersad withdrew the merit list, the other commissioners had not seen the report that Rowley provided to Seepersad, which again makes it clear that it is nonsense to suggest that the report was the reason for withdrawing the Merit list.
The President too may also be called upon to explain her role in this affair, which has been described as the biggest constitutional crisis this country has ever faced.
It was also interesting that Rowley voiced his concern about firearms being issued, when he was the only one who contacted me to ensure a firearm dealership license be granted for his good friend in Tobago, as well as firearms and explosive approvals for persons also extremely close to him. Interesting to note that no mention was made of this in the leaked Stanly John report by Denyse Renne and the Express, even though I advised John of such, which leaves one to draw one of two conclusions; either it was omitted from Stanley John’s report or Renne and the Express refused to print it. Both conclusions are very troubling.
But in the end, whether he directed, influenced or coerced Seepersad, PM Rowley had no right to summon the Chairman of an independent body, and to have cause for the President to refuse to adhere to the law by refusing to forward the Merit List to Parliament.
And to be clear, the process for the Merit list was COMPLETED, the decisions made, and it was handed over to the President, so don’t be fooled by those trying to excuse his conduct by saying as PM, he has a right to hand over any documents to the PSC, as any directives or refusals to act in accordance with the Constitution at this stage of the process, must be seen as interference and or misbehaviour in public office.
Finally, if the Prime Minister openly admitting to interfering with an Independent Institution was an attempt to distract or for the news to slip by relatively unnoticed, it has failed miserably, because given the comments, especially on social media, no one was fooled or hoodwinked. So with this unified public perception of more in the mortar than the pestle, I await the TTPS to act accordingly; but considering I submitted said reports to the Office of the Commissioner on this said matter, and several months later I did not even receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement, I will be cautious in my hope that the good and law-abiding citizens of TNT get the answers and the justice that they surely deserve.