Lead Editor, Investigative Desk
Police Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Bliss Seepersad acted secretly on the matter involving former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and left all the other members in the dark.
This startling accusation was made in the resignation letter written by former PSC member Roger Kawalsingh that was handed to President Paula-Mae Weekes shortly after 10 am yesterday, according to well-placed sources in the know as the PSC fiasco continued to snowball.
In the letter, Guardian Media understands Kawalsingh not only spoke about Seepersad making a number of “decisions unilaterally and without consultation or approval of other members of the commission,” but also addressed his blunder of sending the email correspondence that was meant only for PSC members’ eyes to former top CoP Griffith.
The letter also revealed why Kawalsingh did not resign earlier, after Courtney Mc Nish resigned last Wednesday and Dr Susan Craig James on Saturday. This has left embattled chairman Seepersad standing alone as the controversy rages on over whether the PSC followed proper process before suspending Griffith.
In Kawalsingh’s letter to Weekes, he was frank in raising several concerns about Seepersad. He pointed out that Seepersad failed to consult and get the requisite approval from the other commission members on several issues.
Kawalsingh wrote that they included: Engaging in discussions with Mr Stanley John, retired judge, without the knowledge and approval of the commission, a decision not to deliver the merit list to the President on August 12, failing to abide by the decision of the majority of commission members to withdraw the suspension letter and issuing a letter of suspension dated September 17, 2021, to Griffith without the knowledge and approval of the other commission members.
According to reliable sources, Kawalsingh claimed in his letter that Seepersad implemented “at least two decisions purportedly on behalf of the Commission without, to the best of my (Kawalsingh) knowledge, the Commission having the benefit of independent legal advice.”
Kawalsingh also made it abundantly clear that several confidential communications exchange that took place between PSC members and Seepersad, that were published in various newspapers, did not emanate from him.
How the imbroglio unfolded
At least two sources who spoke to Guardian Media gave an insight into what transpired following the fiasco that began to unravel over the last few weeks.
One of the sources indicated that the August 26 minutes of the PSC meeting will show that the “chairman asked all the members to agree to an investigation based on secret documents and secret information she has gotten. The question was asked how they were expected to agree to something without seeing documents, because there is a process,” the source explained.
The members were not made aware of the informant or who had been responsible for the information provided to Seepersad on the said day (August 12) when she visited the President’s House with the Order of Merit List.
The source continued, “She came with three names for the investigator - Stanley John, Melville Baird and Lionel Jones - and told them to choose one. How could they choose and they do not know what they are going to do? She told them that they met the criteria, but the members insisted on seeing the documents. They asked how they are doing this? Do they have the power to appoint an investigator? And she said this is a monitoring and evaluation exercise. But the members felt they needed to see the documents and advice on whether to investigate,” the source explained.
The following day (August 27), the PSC members again met via a phone conference and were provided with two out of the three documents that Seepersad had spoken about before, the source said.
“But in their view, there was nothing in those documents that could not have been disclosed before. One was an unsigned letter and a note. The unsigned letter spoke about the process involved in issuing Firearm User Licenses (FUL’s). There were no allegations in that letter against Mr Griffith and it only outlined the process. The note did not say anything that was interesting. They said to her whoever she met, the best thing for them to do would be to put in writing what the complaint is, and then the commission can look at it. No commissioner opposed to investigating the allegations. They (the PSC members) sent a draft letter to Seepersad, requesting the complaint to be put in writing and documents supporting the complaint if any documents were available. It’s a process and they (the PSC members) are entitled to have that. But the letter was never sent to the informant,” the source explained.
Another source said three days later, on August 30, Seepersad called another meeting to discuss terms of reference.
“They insisted that they should take their time on this matter and not rush the process of appointing an investigator, but they needed advice first. But Seepersad did not share the popular consensus of the members, although they had issues with it. She later told them she had an appointment with Mr John at the Service Commission, but rather it was where she officially appointed him. The members never agreed to appoint him, and it was that apparently that later triggered a letter to Seepersad by one of the members (Kawalsingh),” said the source.
The source said another meeting was called following a letter written by Seepersad concerning her stance on the John matter.
“How could she think that the members could agree to this when there were still questions to answer? Then she calls a vote asking who is in favour? Dr Craig-James and Kawalsingh said ‘no’ and Mc Nish and Seepersad said ‘yes.’ And because she is the chairman, she had the casting vote to break that deadlock, which led to John’s appointment.”
The second source said the final straw that broke the camel’s back came on September 21.
“Mr Mc Nish had been asking to see Mr John all along and three questions were asked of Mr John. The first, of which, was there any evidence of interference at this time? Is there evidence of hindrance at this time and was Mr Griffith cooperating. And the third question asked if it was fine to send Mr Griffith on administrative leave out of an abundance of caution and good industrial practice and John seemed to agree to this, which satisfied McNish’s questions. John said Mr Griffith was not interfering. But despite this, the chairman did not budge and McNish resigned the very said day.”
Kawalsingh explains his actions
In the letter to the President, Kawalsingh explicitly stated his reasons for not tendering his resignation in the midst of this firestorm of controversy.
He said, “For several days now, I have given mature and dispassionate consideration to resigning from the Commission. I did not do so because I was mindful that my resignation would leave the Commission without a quorum to make decisions and give instructions relative to the several High Court actions pending.”
On the issue of the leaked email to former police commissioner Griffith, which purportedly breached section 122A(1) (d) of the Constitution, which subsection deals with the failure of the Commissioner to perform his “duties in a timely manner,” Kawalsingh admitted he “mistakenly sent the identified email to Mr Gary Griffith.”
He chalked it up to “human error,” and said it was regrettable.
In closing, Kawalsingh said upon reflection, it was now appropriate to tender his resignation and thanked the President “for the privilege to serve this country.”