On the heels of the repeal of the controversial Clause 34 legislation, comes the revelation that the Government is proposing to amend the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Act, which could give the line minister influence over it, which could contribute to the erosion of its independence. This comes from PCA director Gillian Lucky, who described the proposal as “objectionable” and vowed to challenge it, all the way to the Privy Council or the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Addressing an audience in San Fernando on Tuesday night, Lucky called on all conscientious citizens to help prevent the amendment from becoming law, rather than becoming reactionary, after the fact.
Speaking at public outreach meeting of the PCA at City Hall, San Fernando, before an audience which included Public Administration Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, under whose portfolio the organisation falls, Lucky said she wanted to place her concern on record. “There is a clause being bandied about, to go to the Parliament in a bill, that would suggest that the minister is responsible for the PCA, and I want to make it clear, there is no minister who is responsible for the PCA,” she said. “There is a minister who is a conduit, but there is a move to have a clause which goes against the grain of the section, already in our act, which means the very purpose of the PCA is being undermined.”
She emphasised that the PCA is an independent body. “The act says it is not subject to control or direction of any person in the performance of its function or exercise of powers,” Lucky said. “But I want to assure you, the PCA can never be a runaway horse, because at the end of the day, we have to account to the Parliament, the Auditor General and to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. “What is clear is that there can be no political interference in the operation of the body, and that is something that really speaks to independence in T&T, the ability to be accountable and transparent, without any kind of outside influence dictating how we operate.” Lucky, who has worked as a judge, expressed concern that increasingly, people in T&T are bent on being tied up in controversy and going to court to seek redress. She said if the proposed clause is passed, with or without a special majority, the PCA will challenge it. “We will have to go to court, we will have to go to the Privy Council or the CCJ,” she said.
Lamenting that T&T has become a kind of knee-jerk society, reacting after the fact, Lucky called on citizens to prevent the amendment from becoming law. “If we could prevent something from happening in this country, why don’t we go the way of prevention...Prevention is better than cure,” she said. Lucky said she did not want to get involved in the politics of the issue, but at the PCA, she and deputy director Ralph Doyle urge employees not to court danger or get embroiled in something in which their action could be challenged. “If you could prevent that risk, prevent it, adhere to what is law. Stop the knee-jerk approach, start being a society with vision,” she said. Seepersad-Bachan, who invited Lucky to the discourse, noted the concern. She told Lucky, that she is a strong advocate for the independence of constitutionally established body, but noted that there must be collaboration between government agencies and such bodies.