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CoP Williams: I’m only accountable to the nation
Commissioner of Police (CoP) Stephen Williams is insisting he is not answerable to any individual in an investigation. In fact, Williams has dismissed claims of an apparent conflict of interest, given that he now has to investigate his boss—National Security Minister Jack Warner in relation to reports that the Flying Squad was secretly revived in July last year.
Speaking with Sunday Guardian yesterday on the latest development, Williams said, “Are you aware the CoP is not answerable to the minister in any criminal investigation?” Asked what exactly is the nature of the investigation, Williams replied, “If somebody is carrying out a function out there and it surrounds criminality then the CoP is not answerable to anyone. To put it simply, the CoP is not answerable to anyone in an investigation, I am accountable to the nation.”
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has referred the reports from Warner and National Security Operations Centre director Garvin Heerah to the CoP to determine any wrongdoing. Speaking in Parliament on Friday, Persad-Bissessar, who is also head of the National Security Council, did not deny the Flying Squad was secretly revived, but maintained she had no knowledge. The PM said Warner in his report also claimed to be unaware of the unit. Persad-Bissessar made no mention of Heerah’s report.
Cordner: I am totally dissatisfied ...I’ll reveal more
Commenting on the probe yesterday, retired police inspector Mervyn Cordner, who claimed he was recalled by Warner to head the New Flying Squad Investigations Unit, said he was displeased with the developments. “I am totally dissatisfied with the PM’s decision to refer the matter to the CoP. This matter should be probed by an independent body to avoid any doubt of transparency or collusion. The CoP has no right to investigate this matter.
“The issue is not whether the CoP answers to the minister or not. The point is the minister is his boss and information has been brought out in the public domain.” However, Cordner said he noted the Prime Minister did not deny the existence of the Flying Squad being revived secretly but instead said she had no knowledge. “It is two totally (different) issues but based on the statement made I have been invited to reveal all now,” Cordner said.
Ramesh: PM wrong to refer matter to Williams
Also expressing a similar view was former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj who said the Prime Minister acted wrongfully when she opted to refer the matter to the CoP. “The CoP is an interested party in the investigation. The CoP has already stated that the existence of any such unit is illegal. It is conflict of interest and violates the principles of an apparent bias.
“The CoP will be presumed to have known of the existence of such a unit. Therefore, it is wrong and it makes it look like if the Prime Minister is not serious to get answers. It is not an issue for an investigation of a crime. The question is whether the Prime Minister and the National Security Minister knew about the unit.
“The police has no jurisdiction to investigate whether someone told untruth or not. The telling of an untruth is not a crime in T&T. The Prime Minister is just passing the buck otherwise she could have called for an open parliamentary investigation with a joint select committee of Parliament,” Maharaj said.
Ramesh on soldiers being given powers of arrest
Meanwhile, on the issue of soldiers being given powers of arrest, Maharaj said the move was similar to reports of the Flying Squad being revived. “It is the same concept because army personnel are now being given powers the same as police officers to investigate crime. We have a police service being created in the army under the control of the Minister of National Security.”
Maharaj said the Privy Council referred to the situation in which the Police Service or any part thereof or any armed service of the State being under the control or direction of a government is a “private army.” “It is unfair to army personnel because it is going to compromise the integrity and professionalism of the army. The move is going to bring the army in disrepute because the functions of the army and police service are different,” Maharaj said.
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