Who aborted the process for the appointment of a substantive commissioner of police and why?
Is the unprecedented situation of the top leadership positions in the Police Service now being vacant the outcome of the President’s acts and omissions concerning the merit list which the Police Service Commission had settled, but which became diverted from going forward—as a result of the now notorious meeting at President’s House on 12 August 2021.
Meanwhile how are we holding Vincent Nelson, the disgraced British Queen’s Counsel, to his bargain?
Nelson pleaded guilty in a corruption case in which Anand Ramlogan SC, a former attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago, and a junior counsel have been charged. Nelson is expected to be witness for the prosecution.
This matter falls within the constitutional remit of the Director of Public Prosecutions (the DPP), but current Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, on behalf of the Government of Trinidad Tobago, entered into an agreement with Nelson in November 2017.
The agreement relates to the use of a notarised statement and supporting bank statements for the purpose of anticipated civil proceedings which, it can be assumed, are intended against Ramlogan and others.
The agreement contains promises made to Nelson in exchange for his notarised statement. Surprisingly, one such promise made by Al-Rawi is a recommendation against prosecution of Nelson.
The agreement states that the Attorney General ‘undertakes to recommend to the DPP that no criminal proceedings can and will be commenced’ against Nelson ‘in respect of any of the matters arising out of the notarised statement’.
Nelson was charged in 2019 after the agreement was made. Subsequent to the appearance of this agreement, the DPP has made it known that he has a plea agreement with Nelson relating to the criminal proceedings and that he was not a party to any discussions relating to the 2017 AG-Nelson deal. (Newsday 2 October 2021).
An incisive editorial in the Trinidad Express newspaper made the point that there are legitimate public concerns raised by the AG-Nelson deal, accountability for which cannot be evaded by an invocation of the sub judice rule—not least of all because the agreement also included a promise that Nelson’s notarised statement would not be disclosed, except to the DPP and the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Concealment of the notarised statement and the supporting information was even expressly specified to include concealment from Parliament.
Another benefit given to Nelson was a promise that no proceedings would be brought against him for repayment of the fees he earned from government-connected work for the period 2010 to 2017, which spanned two different administrations.
Readers may recall that Nelson’s written advice of 11 October 2015 was the basis of the PNM’s withdrawal of the lawsuit against Malcolm Jones, very shortly after the party re-assumed power in September 2015.
In wrestling terms, one might say the DPP has a half-Nelson hold on Nelson. But when AG Al-Rawi tangled with him, Nelson was permitted to pin the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to the mat with a full-Nelson hold.
In 2015, when Anand Ramlogan resigned as AG from the UNC Government, I commented then that ‘a high level of political aggression is not compatible with the office of attorney general, which is the guardian of the public interest in many matters and, therefore, requires a measure of detachment from the extremes of partisan party politics’.
Subsequently, in 2019, I noted that Al-Rawi had been in the news for all the wrong reasons many times during his tenure and added that ‘it is not possible to be trusted as the guardian of the public interest while habitually, and sometimes crassly, pursuing a campaign against the Opposition, however righteous such a campaign may be in the eyes of the Attorney General’.
Even more controversies are currently swirling around Al-Rawi. And unrestrained conduct in the political gayelle can turn into conduct unbecoming of the office of AG.
Sadly, the credibility of an even higher office, that of President of the Republic, has now suffered serious damage and the office has become a source of a contagion of distrust, which will taint appointments she makes.