Hinds: Challenge to Erla’s extension was ‘frivolous’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds – File photo by Roger Jacob

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds says the legal challenge launched against the decision to extend the contract of Commissioner of Police (CoP) Erla Harewood-Christopher was frivolous.

He made the comment while addressing the media at an impromptu press conference at the office of the Attorney General on Wednesday after the Court of Appeal ruled that her one-year extension by the Cabinet was constitutionally valid.

Harewood-Christopher was confirmed in the post by Parliament on February 3, 2023, and Cabinet extended her term by a year after she reached the retirement age of 60 on May 15, 2023.

In June 2023, political activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj challenged the extension, claiming it was null and void as Cabinet sidestepped the appointment process outlined in the constitution and infringed on the doctrine of the separation of powers.

That challenge was dismissed on January 16 by High Court Judge Justice Ricky Rahim, who ruled that the cabinet has the power to extend the CoP’s term.

On Wednesday, Appeal Court judges Prakash Moosai, Mark Mohammed, and James Aboud unanimously dismissed Maharaj’s 12 complaints of Rahim’s findings.

Suggesting the court ruling vindicated the government’s decision, Hinds said, “I take great comfort that this legal challenge to the exercise of the powers under section 75 of the Police Act was found by a court, after due contemplation, to have been frivolous and, in my view, vexatious and one of many like it.”

Hinds also noted a part of the ruling that said, “The decision as to what was in the national interest is quintessentially an executive function which cabinet is best placed to assess.”

He said, “So the court is saying that is not their business. What is in the national interest is a matter for the cabinet. But in-so-far as the extension of service is concerned, the law provides for that, and it is within the president’s power to treat with it once the recommendation came from the cabinet, as it did.”

Hinds said the challenge was part of an attack on the state by a group of lawyers and accused them of using Balgobin-Maharaj as a proxy.

“There has developed in TT a group of lawyers, some of them wearing other hats, challenging the state on every turn in the courthouse.

“There’s a young man, who they use by the name of Ravi Balgobin. He is the virtual complainer, so to speak. But of course, he is supported by some of the most able lawyers in TT.”