Erla takes charge, Government, Opposition support CoP nominee

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Commissioner of Police Erla Christopher.

FOR THE first time in its history, a woman is in charge of the Police Service, as Erla Christopher was unanimously approved by Parliament as the next Commissioner of Police.

The House of Representatives on Friday voted in favour of the Police Service Commission’s choice of Christopher, a Deputy Police Commissioner, to be CoP, with 36 MPs (19 government, 17 opposition) supporting a motion moved by the Prime Minister.

Before the House passed the motion, Dr Rowley rejected claims from Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal about political interference in the CoP selection process, and Christopher being handpicked by Government.

“Any insinuation that this process ended this way because Government wanted this officer is to be dismissed for what it is – pure mischief.”

Rowley added, “Let me put all of your hearts and concerns to rest. I know no person in the PSC. I have spoken to no person in that commission.” He told Opposition MPs, “Put that in yuh pipe and smoke it!”

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George dismissed claims from Opposition MPs that they had no chance to speak, between Moonilal’s contribution and Rowley’s wind up of the debate.

After Annisette-George overruled complaints by UNC MPs Ravi Ratiram and Rodney Charles, Rowley said, “This is serious public business and I wish members on the other side would not pappyshow the process.”

He dismissed Moonilal’s claim that the selection process used by the PSC in 2018, to disqualify then DCP Deodath Dulalchan “is now okay to affirm Christopher.”

Rowley said, “This country is going through too much for MPs to stoke those kinds of dog whistles.”

He added, “This country on a daily basis is going through hell sometimes unnecessarily, by a few politicians, who purport to speak for the country, when all they do is spoil a good day for many people.”

Reminding MPs the CoP selection process in the period up to 2018, was not transparent and expensive, Rowley said, “The main reason why Dulalchan was not selected by those on my side, when the name came here, is because we were not satisfied with the national security report on him.”

He told Opposition MPs, “Don’t come here and say we turned down Dulalchan in the process, but today we are accepting Christopher with the same process.” Rowley added, “It is not the same process.”

He accused the Opposition of trying to mislead the public and cast aspersions on the PSC.

Referring to Moonilal’s comments about Cabinet having a say in the extension of Christopher’s tenure as CoP, as she is due to retire in May, Rowley said, “The Cabinet is a serious place. It is the Cabinet that runs this country.”

Over the last two days, Rowley disclosed, he sought advice from senior counsel on this issue.

Rowley said Sections 74, 75 and 80 of the Police Service Act treats with Christopher’s retirement in May when she turns 60.

The law, he continued, says when Christopher retires “there will be a vacancy and once a vacancy exists in that post, the procedure for filling it exists.”

That procedure allows Cabinet to make a recommendation to the President, that Christopher continue in office. “The law is there and the fact that an extension is to be triggered by Cabinet, holds no fear for the PNM. It seems to hold a fear for the UNC.”

Rowley also said the law states that an acting CoP has all the powers of the substantive CoP, including the role of the TTPS financial accounting officer.

Rowley said all the UNC is doing through these claims against Christopher and the PSC is causing “disturbance and disquiet across the country.”

He declared, “The Opposition has done absolutely nothing here today to change the outcome because we on this side will support this (Christopher’s nomination) and ask them to join us, so we can appoint a CoP and for heaven’s sake, do something one day, to bring peace and security and safety to this country.”

Christopher has been acting CoP since former acting CoP McDonald Jacob retired from the police service on January 21.

Moonilal said Christopher got a baptism of fire as acting CoP.

“We are informed by the statistics that since Mrs Christopher began acting as CoP, indeed we have had 100 murders.”

While admitting there are no immediate solutions to crime, Moonilal said, “The country will be watching. The Opposition will be watching (Christopher as the substantive CoP).

Moonilal urged Christopher not to be bullied by politicians. He also said it was historic that Christopher was the first woman to be appointed CoP and this was a fact which should not be overlooked.