It’s back to work after the stormy October 21 sitting in Parliament, as the Government and Opposition return to the House of Representatives today for debate on five nominees to reconstitute the Police Service Commission (PSC), which collapsed on September 25.
The last time both sides were face to face in Parliament was for the sitting of the Electoral College—which saw both the Senate and House of Representatives coming together—for the Opposition’s motion to remove President Paula-Mae Weekes on issues concerning the former commission.
That motion was defeated.
For this afternoon’s sitting, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will pilot a debate to approve the notifications of the nominees for the new PSC. Rowley will speak on a motion to do so after Speaker of the House Bridgid Annisette-George presents the five notifications.
Notifications were sent by the President for the nominees: retired Justice of Appeal Judith Jones, financial consultant Maxine Attong, security expert Ian Ramdhanie, wealth management consultant Maxine King and attorney Rajiv Persad.
The new commission follows the collapse of the previous PSC, then led by Bliss Seepersad, following several issues regarding the selection of a Commissioner of Police.
Addressing today’s sitting yesterday, acting Leader of Government Business in the House, Terrence Deyalsingh, said, “Government will be most present in the Parliament to conduct the people’s business in a most professional manner. We’ll be once again ready and be respectful of the Constitution and look forward to a positive outcome—we urge all 41 Members to do the same.”
Camille Robinson-Regis, who holds the post of Leader of Government Business, is at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, which ends on Friday.
As such, the Government will have 21 votes today to the Opposition’s 19, unless there are more absences.
The motion requires a simple majority vote—only Government majority votes alone if it comes to that—for passage.
On Monday, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said while it’s a matter of urgency that a new commission is formed for the process of appointing a Police Commissioner to begin, the process should be “paused” since, according to her, the President hasn’t accounted and replied to questions raised about the PSC imbroglio.
She said her party’s “People’s Revolution” (renamed from October Revolution) is aimed at demanding answers.
However, Persad-Bissessar failed to say what the Opposition would do if the appointment of a new PSC is not halted.
Yesterday, Opposition MP Rudy Indarsingh said the UNC will be attending today and will have speakers. United National Congress officials said all Opposition MPs were asked to prepare to speak during the debate.
The officials also said it was “unlikely” the Opposition bench might walk out of today’s debate or abstain from the vote.
How we got here:
* Courtney McNish, the first Commissioner to go, resigned September 21.
* PSC which required three members for a quorum, collapsed when Susan Craig-James resigned on September 25.
*Roger Kawalsingh resigned on September 27 and chairman Bliss Seepersad followed on September 30.
*Deputy CoP McDonald Jacob had been acting CoP after Gary Griffith went on leave voluntarily. Jacob’s acting stint ended October 15 when Griffith was expected to return.
* A court ruling in a matter brought by activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj deemed the acting appointments illegal.
*The ruling impacted the appointments of Griffith and Jacob to act further, leaving TTPS without an acting head.
*Jacob, in his substantive post as DCP, is currently the Police Service’s accounting officer. The government has appealed aspects of the ruling.
* After resignations, the President immediately sought nominees for the PSC.
* Following constitutionally-mandated consultation with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the President completed notifications for the five nominees
* The constitution mandated that the President select people “who are qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law, finance, sociology or management” as members of the Commission.