Yesterday's decision by President George Maxwell Richards to revoke the appointment of Nizam Mohammed as the chairman of the Police Service Commission ought to bring an end to the ten-day imbroglio caused by Mohammed's extremely divisive comments. Mr Mohammed has served this country long and well in various capacities. But, once he had made clear that he had no intention of resigning, his dismissal was necessary in order to protect this country's unity. This is because his comments about the shortage of East Indians among the upper echelons of the local police service had the potential to divide policing efforts at a time when singular and focused unity of purpose in those efforts has never been more necessary.
Instead of uniting to investigate and apprehend the murderers, rapists, kidnappers and thieves who stalk this land, Mr Mohammed's comments could have led to a state of virtual anarchy among local law enforcers. Paralysis of effort would surely have followed with predictably disastrous consequences for the crime rate. Deputy Commissioner of Police Jack Ewatski was on the ball when he called on the 6,000-plus members of the local police service to remain focused on the job they are being paid to do.
He said this includes providing safety to the public, apprehending criminals and solving crimes. "This will be our main focus, regardless of what happens in the police service," Ewatski said, in a speech at the launch of the 21st Century Police Initiative in the Western Division.
Mr Mohammed's comments, as well, had the potential to send Trinidad and Tobago down the slippery slope that countries such as Guyana, Fiji and Kenya have travelled. These are all countries which have come close to being rent asunder by racial violence. In a country in which the two main ethnic groups are so close-both in their numbers and in their living arrangements-such a deterioration in inter-personal relations would have made T&T ungovernable and contributed to an exodus of the nation's best and brightest which would have resulted in the economy going backwards.
In terms of the fate of Mr Mohammed, while the President may have delivered the final blow, the die would have been cast when the Office of the Prime Minister issued a stinging and condemnatory release on March 28 which stated that the former chairman of the Police Service Commission "must be held accountable for his inflammatory and unwise remarks which in no way represent the views of the Government." The President, who had initially telegraphed that he would issue a statement by Wednesday, seems to have speeded up his decision-making. Unlike some previous decisions-such as his ill-fated appointment of an Integrity Commission whose members all resigned for various reasons in less than a fortnight-the President also appears to have received sound legal advice.
Clearly, Mr Mohammed was provided with an opportunity to be heard. According to the President's 82-word statement issued just before lunch yesterday, he had a "most cordial meeting with Mr Mohammed on Friday April 1, 2011 when the business of the commission was discussed."
One indication of the cordiality of the meeting was Mr Mohammed's relaxed smiles and positive body language at the end of the meeting. The smiles of Friday would have turned to frowns on Monday when the former chairman of the Police Service Commission understood that his appointment was being revoked because he had failed to perform his duties in a responsible or timely manner and demonstrated a lack of competence.
Mr Mohammed may choose to challenge his dismissal if he wishes. That is his constitutional right in the democracy in which he lives. But he would do so knowing that he has the support of neither the Government nor the Opposition-both of which are committed to repudiating the forces of division in this complex and plural society.