Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says he wrote to the Police Service Commission (PolSC) last year to express his loss of confidence in then-Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.
Rowley revealed this while speaking during a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s yesterday, but maintained that he did not interfere in the business of the PolSC nor attempt to politically influence President Paula-Mae Weekes.
He described the accusations as “hogwash”.
Rowley’s comments follow the filing of a motion in Parliament by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Friday.
Persad-Bissessar is seeking to have Weekes removed from office.
Among the Opposition Leader’s claims is that the Prime Minister met with Weekes in August, to influence her in the process of selecting a new Commissioner of Police.
Persad-Bissessar argued that a vital part of the Constitution, the separation of powers, has been breached if Rowley sought to interfere in the CoP selection process.
Rowley yesterday rubbished the claims, saying he has a good working relationship with the Office of the President and meets with the President whenever the need arises.
“I see people asking, they want to know if the Prime Minister went to the President’s House and until the country knows that, we will not know if our democracy has been breached… absolute hogwash!
“The fact that some previous Prime Minister saw it fit not to have a relationship with the President, not to communicate with the President, to denigrate the President publicly, because that was their style, but that does not now exist in Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said.
The Prime Minister noted: “I go to the President’s House whenever I am required to be there because there is something I want to tell the President or there is something the President should know.
“I speak to the President on the phone and if there is a situation in my capacity and my judgment that I think that the President should know, I am duty-bound under law to do that.”
Rowley noted that some commentators were of the impression that he met with Weekes together with then-PolSC chair Bliss Seepersad and somehow interfered in the CoP selection process.
“Absolute falsehood. No such meeting took place and I will go further. I have never involved myself in any selection by the PolSC of any list. I have seen no list, whether it is for a substantive post or acting post…,” he stated.
“All of that business of the State would have been between the Police Service Commission and the President, and as Parliament we did intervene later on indicating to you that it came to our attention that an error has been made…
“I want to categorically deny that I had anything to do with the relationship between the President and the Police Service Commission.”
The Prime Minister said there was no breach of the independence of the Office of the President, as meeting with the President to obtain information is part of his established duties.
“It is the decision-making of offices that is to be independent. The obtaining of information does not request independence,” he said.
Rowley added that he does not need to secretly meet with the President nor any commission, as his role as Prime Minister requires him to do so from time to time.
He said there is no obligation to reveal to the public when these meetings take place or what was discussed, unless necessary.
He also did not need to communicate with the PolSC through the President, as he could do so directly as he has done in the past.
“I can go directly myself in writing as I have done three times,” he said. “One year ago, in my capacity as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, I wrote to the PolSC, a letter under my hand, with my signature. And the most important thing I could do as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago is to attach my signature to any document. That letter was a letter indicating to the commission that as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, I had lost confidence in the Commissioner of Police of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Rowley did not divulge any further details on this.
He questioned what had Weekes done to warrant her removal.
“I am here talking to the population to tell me specifically what do you know that the President of Trinidad and Tobago has done that requires impeachment.”
Rowley also ripped into Persad-Bissessar, whom he described as “a crazy Opposition Leader” attempting to scandalise the Office of the President. “The Opposition Leader wants to get around that by bringing the President’s name into the Parliament in a substantive motion so that she and her imps, chimps and pimps can scandalise the President in the worst way,” he said.
“The Opposition Leader loses no opportunity to make confusion in Trinidad and Tobago… the level of bile that she sprayed at the President is unbelievable and disrespectful.”
The Prime Minister said Persad-Bissessar is a self-appointed Senior Counsel who “has no idea what the Constitution says”.
“I want to tell the Opposition Leader, don’t expect me as Prime Minister to do my job the way you did yours. When she was Prime Minister, for months or maybe years, she was not seeing the President or talking to the President and coming to tell me now how to do my job?
“I am taking no advice from the Opposition Leader. She is not competent.”
Persad-Bissessar’s motion and Rowley’s response are just the latest in a string of events surrounding the selection of a Commissioner of Police, including the complete collapse of the PolSC.
On Thursday, a High Court judge ruled that the acting appointments of both Griffith and Deputy Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob were unlawful. Jacob has since been appointed as the accounting officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
Rowley said the Government accepts the High Court ruling and the relevant institutions would do what has to be done.
“We will work our way out of this by the institutions doing what they have to do,” he assured.