Last update: 05-Dec-2013 3:41 am
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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New PSC picks worry Dumas
Former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas has raised concerns over the nomination of former Independent senator Dr James Armstrong and attorney Roamar Achat-Saney to the Police Service Commission. Dumas says they do not appear to meet the constitutional requirement for appointment. The two were nominated by President Anthony Carmona after consultations with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, and are expected to be confirmed after a debate in Parliament shortly, according to the leader of the House Dr Roodal Moonilal. This latest development comes in the wake of the President having difficulty in choosing members of the Integrity Commission earlier this year. The PSC has not been properly constituted for more than two months now because it does not have its full complement of members. Among the PSC’s main duties is the appointment of a commissioner of police and deputy commissioners and the determination of complaints filed by police officers, which have not been addressed because of its inactivity.
The commission, however, was set to get going with the appointment of the final two new members. Dumas’ first ground of objection is that the Constitution stipulates that commissioners must be “qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law, finance, sociology or management.” He said yesterday that the chairman of the PSC, Prof Ramesh Deosaran, is a sociologist and the commission has already two lawyers—Addison Khan and Martin George. “I believe it was a constitutional requirement for people qualified in finance and management to be appointed to the PSC,” he insisted. The commission thus lacks an expert in finance and management, he noted. In the previous commission, those positions were filled by Kenneth Parker and Jacqueline Cheesman, respectively. Their terms expired on July 20, and Armstrong and Achat-Saney were nominated to replace them on the five-member commission. Armstrong, however, is a development planner. He has a first degree in environmental design, a master’s in urban and regional planning and a PhD in developmental planning. He served as an Independent senator for three years, from June 2010 to August 2013.
Achat-Saney became an attorney-at-law in 2012 and has a first degree in English literature and social sciences and a master’s degree in Education. She was also principal of Fyzabad Composite School and an in-service trainee at the Office of the Attorney General. Dumas said the PSC was the only commission which requires specific expertise, and as far as he was aware, neither Achat-Saney nor Armstrong was qualified or experienced in finance. From the auditing and evaluation work done by the PSC, he said, it was critical that people qualified in human resource management should be included in the PSC, since it would be critical to its efficient and effective functioning. Dumas said his concerns also extend beyond the appointment of the new commissioners, since while on paper there is a chairman, the commission is not now in existence. He noted that the PSC had very important responsibilities to carry out, including the appointment of a commissioner of police and deputy commissioners.
The Cabinet currently has before it a plan to revisit how a police commissioner is selected. The issue had come up in the wake of the appointment and resignation before his contract ended of former CoP, Canadian Dwayne Gibbs. Noting that Gibbs had failed to make a dent on crime, some segments of society had criticised the Government for giving foreigners more resources, better salaries and security of tenure over locals, but getting no results. A review was subsequently set up by the Government to look at simplifying the process to appoint a commissioner and deputy. That committee is chaired by Deosaran and includes Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. Contacted on the matter, both Ramlogan and Moonilal said the matter of the nomination of the two new nominees was the responsibility of the President. But Dumas said he did not agree, as Parliament had the final say. He said the appointment of commissioners to the PSC was not in the total discretion of the President, as it was the responsibility of the Parliament to confirm the appointments. Dumas also noted that the PSC was required to perform important functions “and no PSC exists at this time.” “There is a PSC on paper but it does not really exist,” he said.
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