Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, winds up the debate on the motion to approve the nomination of five persons to the Police Service Commission yesterday.

A new Police Service Commission (PSC) is “good to go” despite Opposition “veto.”

While Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday the five people nominated to reconstitute the commission are eminently qualified, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar raised concerns about some nominees, with the Opposition voting against all of them.

The differing views on the nominees came during yesterday’s Parliament debate on a motion to approve the five members for the PSC.

But despite the Opposition’s claims about some nominees – and their votes against all five – the motion was passed and the new PSC was approved by 21 Government votes to the Opposition’s 19.

Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis is in Scotland for the United Nations climate change conference, which ends tomorrow.

The previous commission collapsed on September 25 after commissioners resigned following a disagreement with then-chairman Bliss Seepersad on administrative leave for then-acting Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.

Yesterday, Deputy Speaker of the House Esmond Forde presented the notifications – sent by President Paula-Mae Weekes – for the new nominees: retired Justice of Appeal Judith Jones, finance/management expert Maxine Attong, sociology expert Ian Kevin Ramdhanie, finance/management consultant Maxine King and attorney Rajiv Persad.

Rowley, in piloting the motion, said, “They carry with them the requisite qualifications and experience and most importantly, that willingness to provide public service to the people and particularly to the police service that requires it at this time more than ever.

“These five distinguished citizens, having offered themselves to serve on the Police Service Commission, I have every confidence they will bring the quality of their qualifications and experience to bear on any and all issues concerning the Police Service Commission.”

He said he was pleased to say a finer crop of qualified people could hardly have been advanced, “Bringing these skills and experience to offer in the public service at a time when most people – especially people comfortably placed like these people are – such people are reluctant to offer themselves or accept offerings to positions of service in the public domain, largely because they’re fearful or want nothing to do with being pilloried simply because they give public service within the confines of their skills and experience.”

Rowley said many wouldn’t accept invitations to public service due to the “tedious arrangements” required by the Integrity Commission, “Or that by and large, public service is a thankless job.”

“So I’m grateful these five people have agreed to take the responsibility for providing T&T, at the Police Service Commission level, with the management and skills required to ensure there’s a functioning Police Service Commission to do what a Police Service Commission is required to do.’’

Rowley, detailing the nominees’ qualifications, listed their backgrounds. He said Jones was eminently qualified to begin what’s required for any PSC, “And we thank for her willingness to serve.”

He said Attong’s work experience is quite extensive and also her public service work.

“A person from the private sector who is willing to contribute some portion of her very valuable time and experience to serve on the PSC – I thank her for her willingness to serve.”

Rowley added Ramdhanie is also eminently qualified in the field of sociology.

“Once again, a citizen willing to serve and on behalf of us in this House – at least those on my side- thank him for his willingness.”

On King, he said, “We couldn’t ask for a better person.”

Citing Persad’s legal background and service in several Caribbean islands acting as a judge, Rowley said T&T was lucky to get a person as well qualified to even agree to serve on PSC.

Opposition concerns

In response, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar raised questions about Ramdhanie.

She said the Opposition had nothing against the nominees who were distinguished sons and daughters of the soil, but it couldn’t be about qualification only, since they must be fit for the purpose.

She said scrutiny of nominees was vitally important, since the public must have trust in the PSC’s independence and appointees must be fiercely independent, free from bias, partisanship or political sympathies. Persad-Bissessar said people must have trust in a PSC to have confidence in their determinations and members couldn’t be seen to be depending on ruling party, business stipends or payments.

“A level of trust and confidence in PSC directly correlates with TTPS, law, order and stability..this (Parliament) musn’t be a mere rubber stamp for Government.”

She said the last PSC collapsed when “every manjack” resigned.

“The catalyst for this began a year ago when the Prime Minister wrote the Police Service Commission indicating his displeasure with (Griffith),” she said.

She said the new PSC will have to consider the last commission’s merit list for Commissioner of Police and whether the 188 appointments which occurred since 2009 will be legal following the recent judgement against acting appointments.

Meanwhile, outside the Parliament, a group staged a United National Congress “Revolution” protest, but it was quickly was dispersed by the police.