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Dumas presses ahead with PSC lawsuit
Already operating without a chairman, the Police Service Commission now faces a legal challenge against the legality of two other members, which if successful, can render its previous decisions unconstitutional. The legal challenge was filed by the firm Karl Hudson-Phillips and Company on behalf of former head of the public service Reginald Dumas last Thursday and names the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan as defendant.
The T&T Guardian in a report last September Dumas expressed concerns about the legality of the nominations. Dumas is asking the High Court to declare that the President has no power and or authority to nominate and or appoint to the PSC any person who is not qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law, sociology, management or finance. The term of office for the Commission’s chairman Ramesh Deosaran expired on April 11. It was only last November that President Anthony Carmona filled the existing vacancies of the Commission, reappointing two former members Addison Khan and Martin George.
But his appointment of attorney Roamar Achat-Saney and former Independent senator James Armstrong, met the disapproval of Dumas, on the basis that they did not possess the requisite qualifications. Section 129 (2) of the Constitution provides for service commissions to function with a quorum of three. President Carmona will have to appoint a new Chairman after consultations with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley. Deosaran was appointed in 2011 after then chairman Nizam Mohammed was fired for remarks he made at a meeting with the Joint Select Committee of the Parliament. he said then that the commission will initiate action against the ethnic imbalance within the police service. His appointment was revoked on the advice of Prime Minister.
Months before his death in January attorney Karl Hudson-Phillips QC, had written the Attorney General informing him of Dumas' “serious concerns and reservations" about the appointments.
Hudson-Phillips said in the letter the appointments did not meet the letter and spirit of Section 122 (3) of the Constitution. The members of the PSC are appointed by the President after consultations with the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, is required to nominate to the PSC persons who are both qualified and experienced in one of the disciplines of law, finance, sociology and management. In his letter Hudson-Phillips stressed that a proper interpretation of the relevant provisions (of Section (122) showed that nominees must be in a position to prove that they are both qualified and experienced in law, finance, sociology or management.
Hudson-Phillips said qualification alone in a particular discipline will not be enough without experience. He added then that experience in one of the disciplines without being qualified in it will not satisfy the requirement. A date for the hearing of the lawsuit is yet to be fixed. Contacted for comment yesterday Dumas said he had promised to file a legal challenge and he kept his word. He recalled in his eulogy for Hudson-Phillips he said it would be an affront to him if he did not pursue the matter.
What the lawsuit seeks to determine
• Whether according to the provisions of Section 122 (3) of the Constitution of T&T nominees for appointment to the Police Service Commission must be qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law, sociology, management or finance and the meaning, in that context, of the phrase "qualified and experienced".
• Whether the President has any power and or authority to nominate for appointment to the PSC and to appoint to the said Commission persons who are not qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law, sociology, management of finance
• Whether according to the provisions of Section 122 (3) of the Constitution Roamar Achat-Saney, is and was on September 6, 2013, a person qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law and sociology and so be eligible for appointment to the PSC.
• Whether according to the provisions of Section 122 (3) of the Constitution Dr James Armstrong, is and was on September 6, 2013, a person qualified and experienced in the disciplines of management and finance and so be eligible for appointment to the PSC
The court is also being asked to say "whether according to the true construction of Section 122 (3) of the Constitution the Police Service Commission is not properly constituted according to the law." Dumas' wants the court to declare that "under the true construction of Section 122 (3) of the Constitution" Achat-Saney and Armstrong were "not qualified and experienced " in the respective disciplines of law and sociology and management and finance for nomination and appointment by the President to the PSC on September 6, 2013. It is also seeking a declaration from the court that "The Police Service Commission as currently constituted is unconstitutional and contrary to Section 122 (3) of the Constitution by reason of the appointment by the President of Roamer Achat-Saney and Dr James Armstrong for a three years with effect from November 29, 2014.