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‘Too many Africans in top police posts’

Published: 
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Nizam charges ethnic imbalance...
Chairman of the Police Service Commission Nizam Mohammed makes a point during a Joint Select Committee meeting at the Parliament yesterday. PHOTO: DILIP SINGH

Police Service Commission chairman Nizam Mohammed says there are too many Africans in the hierarchy of T&T Police Service  and he intends to address the issue with assistance from the Parliament. Mohammed said there was an imbalance with the ethnic composition of officers ranking from superintendents to Assistant Commissioners of Police.

He was speaking at a Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the commission at the Parliament yesterday. The meeting was chaired by Independent senator Subhas Ramkhelawan. As Mohammed waded into talks about ethnicity, Health Minister and JSC member Therese Baptiste–Cornelis said she “just never liked those kinds of statements being made.” As Mohammed continued, three of his fellow commissioners—Martin George, Jacqueline Cheesman and Kenneth Parker—distanced themselves from his statements, endorsing what Cornelis–Baptiste said.

Mohammed said according to information provided by the Commissioner of Police to the Director of Personnel Administration, Service Commission Department, Gloria Edwards–Joseph on the ethnic composition of leadership in the TTPS, out of 59 positions only ten were held by East Indians. He did not specify whether the figures were for the current period. Mohammed said officers in the lower ranks had to interact with those in senior positions and there were “strains in relations.” He said the issue should not be approached in an inflammatory, passionate or emotional manner. His tone, however, escalated as he spoke. “Fifty per cent of this country are people of East Indian origin and you are asking them to support the Police Service...They have to provide the Police Service with information,” Mohammed said.

“They have to feel protected by the Police Service and when they see the hierarchy of the Police Service is as imbalanced as is reflected in these figures and the chairman of the commission intends to tackle these things you understand why...you understand why the guns are being aimed at me, but I have a job to do and this is what I am going to do. “I intend to address this with the help of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. “We need the protection.” He said he had been working along with police officers for more than 35 years and officers often came to him to discuss issues affecting them. He listed a situation involving president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association regarding promotion and ethnicity issues. Mohammed said because of the ethnic composition of the Promotions Advisory Board, the president felt threatened and was seeking a review.

Baptiste–Cornelis said she was from “all” origins and asked Mohammed what classification she would fall under since he only referred to East Indian and African. She said: “If you start to classify people as East Indian or African, we are running into a problem and this is exactly what as a government we are trying to get away from,” she said. Mohammed explained that the figures provided were for “Africans, East Indians and mixed, and that she would fall under the category of mixed.” That prompted laughter among members. Opposition senator Shamfa Cudjoe also endorsed Cornelis–Baptiste’s remarks. George also commented.

He said: “I can state categorically that for myself, Ms Cheesman and Mr Parker, I know for sure the comments of the chairman do not represent our view in terms of what he just said on these issues.”Mohammed immediately responded: “That is new to me...I am now discovering that.” Commissioner Addsion Khan did not comment. Mohammed said it was important for the country to know what he said. Ramkhelawan then proceeded to ask Cheesman and Parker whether they did in fact share George’s view and they agreed. As the meeting ended at noon, Mohammed and Khan stood by their seats and George, Cheesman and Parker walked out together.

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These were the figures outlined by Mohammed:

•Ten Assistant Commissioners of Police—No East Indians.

•Three Deputy Commissioners of Police—No East Indians.

•15 Senior Superintendents—No East Indians.

•31 Superintendents—21 Africans and ten East Indians.