Moonilal: CoP beholden to Government

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal – AYANNA KINSALE

OROPOUCHE East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has said the government’s intervention to extend the term of Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher makes her beholden to the Cabinet.

Saying a bad precedent was being set, he said this placed her in a position where she might do anything or refuse to do anything.

“This is the first time in the history of this country a Cabinet has a direct rein, direct hold, around the neck of a commissioner of police.”

Speaking on a United National Congress (UNC) platform in Fyzabad on Monday night, Moonilal wished Harewood-Christopher, who turns 60 next Monday, and is hence due to retire, an early happy birthday.

His question as to who would replace her come May 16 was answered on Tuesday by a release from National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds about the extension of her service.

In his release, Hinds said according to Section 75 of the Police Service Act, the President, where it is considered in the national interest, may extend the service of a First Division officer who has reached retirement age.

The act says this extension will be for one year in the first instance and thereafter, subject to annual review, for a maximum of two further periods of a year each.

Moonilal alluded to the Prime Minister “wanting to go to Cabinet pursuant to Section 75 of the Police Service Act, to extend her for one year as a police officer,” hours before this was in fact done.

He said that is normally the responsibility of the Police Service Commission.

He said he was watching with an eagle eye Harewood-Christopher’s treatment of the Brent Thomas issue, in which both the Prime Minister and Hinds have denied involvement.

Harewood-Christopher has said the matter is sub judice and has not commented further other than to say an investigation has been set up.

Moonilal called on her to name the team involved in the investigation, pointing to the Professional Standards Bureau, which is at the centre of the alleged abduction of Thomas from Barbados and his being flown back to Trinidad on a Regional Security System plane.

Commenting on the crime situation, Moonilal said Government is squandering money with no results to show.

He referred to the recent two-day Caricom symposium on crime, which saw regional heads huddled together in Port of Spain to find common ground to deal with this scourge.

“They blow $3.4 million in two days and found no solutions.”

He broke down the cost of invitations for $5,000; dinner for two days, $60,000; team uniform, which he questioned, at a cost of $25,000; event planner, $140,000; display, $50,000; website and social media at $100,000 each; photography and video editing for $200,000; meals for the secretariat, $50,000; contingency $300,000; and design, signage and banners at the whopping cost of $800,000.“What banners they put up there? I did not see no banner.”He drew a comparison to a neighbourhood watch group in his constituency.

“People in Ramai Trace hire a private security, with flashing lights for $5,000 a month, and do you know, they solve more crime in Oropouche East for $5,000 a month than the crime symposium for $3.4 million?

“We are going down a slippery slope,” Moonilal said.