By Raffique Shah
February 13, 2018
When opposition and government parliamentarians jointly pursue any issue that seems to be of national importance, I become very suspicious. Recently, when they did in the instances of the passing of former President Max Richards and election of Justice Paula Mae Weekes to the presidency, I expressed my fears in this space. Now that they have unanimously appointed a special select committee of six MPs them to probe the fiasco that the appointment of a Commissioner of Police is turning out to be, I smell a rotting rat whose putrid stench permeates both political parties, some commissions and commissioners, and possibly holders of high office who are aiming to go higher and higher.
In fact, I strongly suggest that what is required at this critical juncture when state institutions are collapsing every which way is not a special select committee to probe matters surrounding the appointment of a police commissioner, but a specially selected committee comprising eminent and trusted people in the society to probe the aforementioned collapses, empowered by a mandate from the citizenry to purge every public official who has brought the Republic to this sorry pass.
If, at specific times during this people’s probe, the Committee deems it necessary to fire the Government, the Opposition, the judiciary, the entire Police Service and all these useless and toothless commissions and commissioners, then so be it. I don’t think the nation would be any more anarchic than it already is.
Before you say “Shah talking tatah” and look to lock me up for sedition, hear me out.
Who were the architects of the convoluted, brainless processes that must be adhered to before a police commissioner can be appointed? It’s not the police or the Police Service Commission. It’s the politicians—either the PNM or the UNC, or likelier both of them. They took what was once a simple procedure, something that other counties, countries and jurisdictions spend no more than a few days to execute, and made it so complicated, so costly, and so time-consuming, we could well end up never having a substantive commissioner.
So why are they investigating the Commission, a creature of the Constitution their forebears created? They should first investigate themselves, which is not oxymoronic in T&T, the Mighty Spoiler having validated “himself tried himself” in calypso many moons ago. The PSC was, after all, only conducting business Trini-style, in this case recommending the best candidate (in their evaluation) for the job. Who is to say the others weren’t worse? And is there any law or regulation that forbids a farmer/police officer that Deodath Doolalchan purports to be, from becoming CoP?
If anything, Deo must be commended for getting the sloth that is the office of the Commissioner of State Lands to give him permission to occupy and cultivate a plot of State land, pending a lease, within a few short months. Hopefully now, hundreds of bona fide farmers who have not had their leases renewed for 20 years or more (Carlsen Field, Waller Field), and others who applied for new leases up to a decade ago, might finally see some life injected into the hitherto dead CoSL.
In fact, because of the inertia at the office of the CoSL, stealing State land, especially lands that once fell under control of Caroni Limited, has become a lucrative hobby for speculators, professionals, contractors and former sugar workers. Without deeds or leases, two-acre agricultural plots and many-acres of tenanted land have change hands multiple times, each “seller” making a tidy profit fleecing the real owners, the people of T&T.
But the saga of Farmer Deo and how he came to be the choice of the PSC for the position of CoP (ah rhyming, eh…Carnival nah!), takes us into the realm of another of these constitutional commissions that seem to have long outlived their usefulness, if they were ever useful.
The Judicial and Legal Services Commission has been under scrutiny for some time now over a range of mis-appointments and disappointments. The 20th edition of the Integrity Commission is suspiciously silent, it predecessors having been embroiled in controversy, and the Commission itself never having successfully prosecuted a single public official of the thousand-or-so who fall under its jurisdiction for corruption, this in a country where corruption is of epidemic proportions.
Then there is the Public Services Commission of which the least said, the better, and the Regulated Industries Commission, which, like an embalmed mummy, suddenly sprang to life last week to announce that it had not addressed water and electricity rates for decades, that admission when both utilities are steeped in debt to the tune of billions of dollars, and their consumer rates are among the lowest in the world.
I don’t know if all these seemingly non-functional commissions and commissioners are paid salaries or stipends, what perks, if any, they enjoy. But they come across as a colossal waste of time, money and maybe staff and office space. And now, to crown their inglorious existence comes the sorry story of a seven-year, $7 million dollar odyssey by one commission to recruit one commissioner (of police), its tainting by the intervention of another commissioner (of State lands), and a highest-level parliamentary probe by Parliamentarians who are the root cause of the conundrum they manufactured.
Tell me this isn’t a case of mad, mad Trinidad, how I love this country bad…