[UPDATED] UNC wants JSC to grill Police Service Commission – ‘Why pick Erla?’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal – File photo by Angelo Marcelle

OROPOUCHE East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has called on the Parliament’s National Security joint select committee (JSC) to question the Police Service Commission (PSC) on the process it used to select Erla Harewood-Christopher as Commissioner of Police (CoP) last February.

Moonilal questioned whether certain members of the PSC may have given Harewood-Christopher higher marks for her to gain selection as CoP ahead of other candidates for the post.

He also claimed that some members of the commission owned properties in a particular real estate development where the Prime Minister has a property.

Moonilal, who is a member of the National Security JSC, made these statements at a news conference held at the UNC’s headquarters in Chaguanas on Sunday.

When she appeared before the JSC on February 1, Harewood-Christopher seemed challenged and struggled to answer questions about the success (or failure) of these strategies and to give the public the confidence and assurance that the police are getting on top of the crime situation.

She fumbled through documents before her and had to ask the chair for time to give her replies.

After referring to media reports which claimed Harewood-Christopher was not the worst CoP in recent times, Moonilal reminded the media that it was the PSC who selected her for the job.

“Today, I am calling on the Government and the JSC of Parliament on national security to undertake an immediate investigation, interrogation, examination of the PSC and the nomination of Erla Harewood-Christopher to be CoP.”

Last February, the House of Representatives approved Harewood-Christopher’s nomination to be CoP.

On that occasion, Moonilal said the Prime Minister told MPs, “We must accept the PSC’s nominee.”

He added that after questions arose about the selection of other people for senior posts in the police service, the law was changed so that the PSC did not have to rely on any external agency to help it select people for such posts.

Moonilal then identified retired Justice Judith Jones, Maxine Attong, Ian Kevin Ramdhanie, Maxine King and Rajiv Persad, SC.

“These are the invisible people who you don’t hear about too much. These are the people who make decisions but they somehow hide.”

After naming the PSC members, Moonilal said, “Could I indicate to you that these are members of the PSC. They are the ones who selected Erla Harewood-Christopher. She did not select herself.”

Harewood-Christopher, he continued, came 12th in 2019 in a group of candidates that were interviewed by the commission for the CoP post.

Moonilal said, “Not one member of the PSC has experience in law enforcement or in national security. Not one.”

He said in November 2021, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar questioned whether Maxine Attong, Maxing King and other people had direct links to Dr Rowley with “that infamous Inezgate development in Tobago.”

Moonilal reiterated, “The PSC must be hauled before a JSC on national security to bring their report card, bring their assessment forms and let us go through, to see what was the result of the interviews.”

He claimed the UNC has been told that certain PSC members gave her higher marks in a particular section of the interview “that propelled her to the top (of the merit list).”

Police Service Commission chariman Justice Judith Jones presents Police Commissioner Erla Harewod-Christopher with her letter of appointment at the PSC, Pasea Street, Tunapuna on February 10, 2023, at the PSC office in Pasea Street, Tunapuna. Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is calling for the joint select committee of Parliament to investigate why Harewood-Christopher was selected as the top candidate for the position. –

Moonilal said, “We are asking who are these commissioners (PSC members), how could they have given her that mark which clearly sent her to the top?”

He added that members of entities such as the PSC must not be allowed to conduct their activities in secret.

“They must no longer hide behind the curtain and do what they want.”

Moonilal then recalled that the PSC has sent to Parliament nominations for three police officers- Wendell Lucas, Junior Benjamin and Natasha George- to be appointed deputy police commissioners.

While the UNC has no issue with Lucas, Benjamin or George as individuals, Moonilal said it cannot trust the PSC to make the right choice on these appointments, given its selection of Harewood-Christopher.

He added that the PSC must account to the National Security JSC first about its selection of Harewood-Christopher before the Opposition considers any nominations sent by it to Parliament.

On May 15, 2023, Harewood-Christopher reached the compulsory retirement age of 60 as a police officer.

But Government extended her contract as CoP for another year.

Moonilal told reporters that attorney Anand Ramlogan, SC, is currently challenging the legality of this in court.

But he added that on May 15, the Cabinet will have to decide whether or not it will renew Harewood-Christopher’s contract as CoP.

Harewood-Christopher and members of the PSC were unavailable for comment on Sunday.

Moonilal said the population can take no comfort that Dr Rowley’s discussions in Washington, DC, last week will see any crime reduction.

Using a Carnival analogy, Moonilal quipped, “He led a band of players to Washington, DC. Some of them were in costumes.”

Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo said that based on Harewood-Christopher’s comments to the National Security JSC last week, this decision should be obvious.

“This CoP has failed in her job.”

Tancoo referred to Dr Rowley’s comments at a news conference last week that TT was attracting the interest of transnational criminals.

“Local criminals like them (PNM) too.”

Tancoo claimed that whether foreign or local, criminals have no fear of being caught while the PNM is in power.

He warned citizens that the criminals could be right next to them, “buying doubles on the corner, walking the streets and wining for Carnival.”

Tancoo claimed that over the last eight years, only one industry has flourished: the crime sector.

“We can’t attract foreign investment but somehow we can become attractive to foreign criminal cartels.”

While the Government received a manpower audit on the police service in 2017, Tancoo questioned whether it did anything to implement the recommendations contained in the audit.

Tancoo called for the resignation of Rowley, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, Harewood-Christopher and the PSC.

Rowley will hold a news conference on Tuesday to deal exclusively with national security matters.

This story was originally published with the title “Moonilal calls for probe of Erla’s selection” and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

OROPOUCHE East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has called upon the Parliament’s National Security joint select committee (JSC) to question the Police Service Commission (PSC) on the process it used to select Erla Harewood-Christopher as Commissioner of Police (CoP) last February.

Moonilal questioned whether certain members of the PSC may have given Harewood-Christopher higher marks for her to gain selection as CoP ahead of other candidates for the post.

Moonilal made these statements at a news conference held at the UNC’s headquarters in Chaguanas on Sunday.

Moonilal and Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo reiterated the UNC’s claims that the PNM has failed to deal with crime.

Tancoo called for the resignation of Dr Rowley, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, Harewood-Christopher and the PSC.