Clock ticking for President to find new PSC members

President Paula-Mae Weekes faces the unenviable task of getting at least three suitably qualified people to serve as members of the Police Service Commission after the previous board imploded in the last two weeks.

Time is running out, and the President will have to start from scratch.

This is because the sole nominee so far, Vincel Edwards, a retired deputy commissioner of police, whose nomination was scheduled to be debated on Monday in Parliament, opted to stand down on Friday.

He said this was to allow Weekes “the widest consideration in re-constituting the five-member commission.”

The Office of the President said the legislation requires members to be qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law, finance, sociology or management.

Once suitable, willing candidates are identified, the President will consult with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition before issuing a notification to Parliament, which is subject to affirmative resolution of the House of Representatives.

Once Parliament approves the candidate, the President will appoint the member to the PSC.

The situation is reminiscent of the collapse of successive boards of the Integrity Commission between 2009 and 2010 and then President George Maxwell Richards’ challenge in finding people to serve.

As it stands, the former PSC board led by Bliss Seepersad had completed its mission of selecting the top seven candidates to fill the vacancy of police commissioner. That order of merit list remains inactive after it was withheld from the President on August 12 on the basis of information from an unnamed public official.

The information prompted Seepersad to appoint retired judge Stanley John to undertake a probe into allegations of corruption in the granting of firearm user’s licences and possible interference in the police investigation against Christian Chandler, the head of the police legal unit.

The scope of John’s investigation remains unclear, as the terms or reference have not been made public. John does not have any investigative powers, and cannot compel police to hand over official documents or give any statements.

Another grey area, according to legal sources, is the acting appointment of a commissioner of police.

If the High Court rules that the PSC acted unlawfully in appointing Gary Griffith to act as CoP from August 17, based on the interpretation of Section 123 of the Constitution and the provisions of Legal Order 183, the police service could be without a leader, as the same arguments can be applied to the subsequent acting appointment of Deputy Commissioner McDonald Jacob.

The issue, lawyers said, is whether Parliament should have approved the acting appointment in both cases or whether the PSC was empowered to appoint an acting CoP by simply informing the President.

Whatever the court’s ruling may be, the President, Parliament and the next PSC have just two weeks to complete the process, as Jacob’s acting appointment expires on October 15.

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