Speaking at Thursday’s post-Cabinet briefing, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi addressed the decision in the case of Maharaj, Harridath v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago which was delivered Thursday by the Honourable Mr Justice Peter Rajkumar.
The claim was brought by the Opposition challenging the selection process for the appointment of a Commissioner of Police and a Deputy Commissioner of Police.
The previous selection process was very complicated and the Government committed to amending the process as, not only was it wholly unacceptable to have an acting Commissioner of Police in addition to a selection process that is so time consuming, but the office of the Commissioner of Police needs to be solidified and certain.
Al-Rawi said that contrary to media reports, Opposition was not successful on striking out the legal notices for the appointment of a new Commissioner of Police.
“It is entirely incorrect to say the UNC (United National Congress) has won some victory, that’s an erroneous headline and I would caution members of the media to read what was asked in the context of what was said by the UNC.”
“Those tweets and headlines saying ‘the UNC won matter’…the UNC asked for the whole order to be struck out. They did not get that.”
“They said that everything was ultra vires, they wanted to have all of the prescriptive terms returned…they got none of that.”
“The process needed to be simplified and that has withstood the scrutiny of the court.”
Al-Rawi said that the Police Service Commission (PSC) remains an independent entity and has been placed to do what it needs to do.
“We stand by the principle that they are autonomous. What we wanted to do was simplify the process,” he said.
Al-Rawi said the process of appointing a new Commissioner of Police is still moving ahead, and that the rulings by the High Court are in largely accordance with Government’s requests.
“Nothing has disturbed the current process for the appointment of a Commissioner of Police. The process is well afoot,” he said, adding that Cabinet has also approved necessary funding for the retention of firm to oversee the process.
The order allows for the PSC to march the process forward instead of the Director of Personnel Administration, which means Government is no longer bound to use a foreign firm.
He added however that he is being advised on the matter to consider if there is any aspect they wish to treat with further.
He said the ‘convoluted’ process of the 2009 orders which outlined the appointment of a Commissioner of Police can now be simplified.
“We in the Government are resolute that it was a proper thing to simplify the process for appointing a Commissioner of Police.”
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bisessar issued a statement Thursday calling for Al-Rawi’s removal following the ruling, saying it prevented the establishment of a police state under the People’s National Movement (PNM) administration and at the beck and call of the political directorate.
Appointment of a Commissioner of Police
According to Section 123 (1) of the Constitution the Police Service Commission (PSC) appoints persons to hold or act in the office of Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police.
This appointment must be carried out in accordance with the following Constitutional Orders, namely the:
- The Appointment of the Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Qualification and Selection Criteria) Order, 2009;
- The Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Process) Order, 2009;
- The Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Acting Appointments) (Selection Process) (No.2) Order, 2009
With respect to the substantive appointment to the offices of the Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police, before any appointment can be made to these offices, candidates must first go through a rigorous assessment process conducted by a firm experienced in conducting assessment of senior police managers.
The name of the highest graded candidate is then submitted by the PSC to the President who then submits that name to the Parliament as the candidate must first be approved by the House of Representatives, before an appointment can be made by the PSC to either the office of Commissioner of Police or Deputy Commissioner of Police.
It means therefore that any officer from the second division of the Police Service, for example a Sergeant or even an Inspector, once the officer satisfies the qualification and selection criteria as set out in the Appointment of the Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Qualification and Selection Criteria) Order, 2009, is eligible to apply for consideration to be selected.
In cases of an acting appointment, it is the PSC in its sole discretion that can appoint a person to act in the office of Commissioner of Police or Deputy Commissioner of Police.