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Set up independent body for Flying Squad probe
As head of the Government and of the National Security Council, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar must ensure there is a thorough, independent investigation of reports that a New Flying Squad Investigation Unit (NFSIU), made up of retired police officers, was involved in unauthorised intelligence-gathering operations for several months last year.
That will not be achieved by merely referring the matter to acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, as she announced last Friday in a statement in Parliament. Considering the magnitude of this issue, the Prime Minister’s actions so far have done little to assuage public concern. Instead, there are now fears that the entire unsavoury affair might be swept under the carpet.
That is one reason why an independent body should be set up to investigate. The vehement denials in the face of evidence, including e-mails and other items of correspondence that have been released to the public, have served only to rouse further suspicions. Garvin Heerah, director of the National Security Operations Centre, has reportedly admitted to holding talks and assisting the NFSIU by providing it with some government resources.
While he has repeatedly denied any involvement in or knowledge of the NFSIU, CoP Williams was mentioned in the report: Mr Heerah said he had approached Mr Williams for advice on whether members of the unit should be made special reserve police (SRPs) to facilitate their work.
Also, even if Mr Williams had no knowledge of the NFSIU, a crucial aspect of the investigation must be whether his authority as CoP was violated when the secret group was formed. Since Mr Williams needs to answer some questions about this matter, he is definitely not the man to head the probe. It is totally out of the question for him to investigate a matter to which he is inevitably linked.
As for the others involved, at the very least, those who claim to have been part of the unit may be guilty of impersonating police officers. Even more worrying, they may have been able to carry out covert intelligence operations for several months, supposedly without the knowledge or approval of the Prime Minister, National Security Minister Jack Warner or the acting CoP.
How could this be possible? It suggests major failures on the part of those who are officially tasked with gathering intelligence—many of whom fall under Mr Williams’s aegis. Can a police commissioner really be expected to report fully and objectively if it transpires that the resources he commands have fallen down on the job?
The issue also involves public officials who, while not his direct superiors, have some jurisdiction over Mr Williams who, it must be remembered, is currently in an acting capacity but who hopes to be selected as the substantive CoP.
Is an acting Commissioner of Police able to investigate, without fear or favour, the activities of the Minister of National Security and the Prime Minister and head of the National Security Council? There must be a proper, independent and transparent probe of the NFSIU.
Any serious investigation into what Ms Persad-Bissessar described as “alleged wrongdoings, unlawful conduct and/or action by any or all persons purported to be involved” cannot be handed over to any of those who have themselves been named—rightly or not—in connection with the controversy.
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