Two weeks ago, the President of the Republic in her words ‘spoke to the issue of the substantive appointment of commissioner of police’ and confirmed that ‘an order of merit list was delivered on 11 August 2021 to the OTP and withdrawn almost immediately’.
OTP is a reference to the Office of the President. As previously indicated, I respectfully consider that it was in breach of the constitution for the President to participate and acquiesce in a withdrawal of the merit list and to block Parliament out of the process set down in the Constitution for the appointment of a commissioner of police.
Where are we now following the contentious proceedings in Parliament, which in turn followed the President’s statement?
In reality the constitutional errors, which I identified, have led to the success of a constitutional coup against the former Police Service Commission (the PolSC) and those persons whose names were on the merit list for the office of commissioner of police (CoP).
If we are not vigilant, the Police Service may become something resembling a state enterprise in respect of the comings and goings at the leadership level, at the whim of the political executive.
Without a CoP, we have been left in an unstable place. We do not have even an acting CoP. The acting appointments recently made also failed. The High Court struck them down for the separate reason that all of the 2009 and part of the 2021 subsidiary legislation relating to the selection process was unconstitutional and void.
Whether we like it or not, the constitutional structure that provides for service commissions to have exclusive control of appointments has to take us forward. We have no choice because the Constitution is unlikely to be amended while the Government and Opposition can barely stand the sight of each other, far less arrive at the special majority necessary to make amendments.
The reconstitution of the PolSC and the work towards filling the critical vacancies at the top of the Police Service has, therefore, urgently to be done. The public—and probably the courts again—will assess the quality and validity of the reconstructive output of the PolSC as it walks through the minefield created by the events of 11 August 2021.
Meanwhile, the controversial abortion of the merit list process will cost the country dearly. We face issues of instability and morale in the Police Service as well as respect for the Service.
We also have a further diminution of trust in institutions across the board. These issues rise way above Gary Griffith’s claims about himself.
Griffith has sensibly, if uncharacteristically, somewhat tempered his trademark sarcasm. Will a re-application by him for the CoP job add more explosives to the constitutional minefield?
Alternatively, if finally out of the office of CoP, will Griffith become a political thorn in the side of the governing party—particularly as murders continue to terrify the population and the amputated leadership of the Police Service offers the same lame excuses?
It appears from Opposition utterances that, by litigation against the Speaker, it intends to test the established principle that the courts will not interfere in the business and operations of Parliament. The party’s leadership should first recall how firmly the law stands against attempts to use the court to manners the Parliament.
As the fall-out continues, I am particularly saddened to see that one or two Independent Senators could not bear the insults of the Opposition without responding by returning fire.
This has resulted in their colleagues, who are not part of a caucus or unified body, as well as the constitutional institution of the bench becoming Opposition mouthwash.
Sometimes not taking basket and trusting in the good sense of the public to see through baseless insults are options.
The more level-headed responses of two other of the Independent Senators to the Opposition insults, re-affirming the primacy of their individual consciences, are welcome and represent hope that the Senate may recover from the most recent round of hostile parliamentary kicksin’.
Wounded institutions now belong on the long list of travellers seeking roads to recovery. Sadly, the road itself seems little more than an illusion.