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Daly Bread: Bliss’ secret meeting may have destroyed last trace of confidence in PolSC

On 22 September 2021, it became public knowledge that former member of the Police Service Commission (PolSC) and attorney-at-law, Roger Kawalsingh, had made a serious allegation of a secret approach to the Chair of the PolSC regarding the appointment of a Commissioner of Police (CoP) and outgoing CoP, Gary Griffith.

Kawalsingh’s allegation was that the PolSC Chair, Bliss Seepersad, went to President’s House on 12 August 2021 to deliver a merit list of names for the appointment of a CoP but was diverted. According to Kawalsingh, ‘the Chair was met by another public official who voiced certain concerns and promised to forward documents in support of the concerns raised. The issues raised so alarmed the Chair that the list was not delivered to Her Excellency’.

Photo: Bliss Seepersad resigned as Police Service Commission chair on 30 September 2021.
She was the last remaining member on the PolSC board after the resignations of Courtney McNish, Dr Susan Craig-James and Roger Kawalsingh.
(via Office of the President)

Kawalsingh’s allegation has been evaded but not refuted. Some of the evasion has in effect confirmed that the approach disclosed by Kawalsingh did take place.

For example, there was an expression of willingness (presumably sarcastic) to identify the unnamed official if the journalist who asked the question did so without reference to the Opposition’s claim that it was a Cabinet minister.

This was followed by ‘sources’ reportedly referring to reluctance of ‘the PolSC Commissioners having to go on affidavit and lay bare sensitive information which would have revealed the identity of the person who has been advising the commissioners on points of law and influencing its consideration of matters involving Griffith’.

Moreover, during last week, further allegations concerning how the Chair proceeded, after she withdrew in alarm from President’s House, were revealed. It is alleged that, subsequent to 12 August, the Chair had received documents but was reluctant at first to share the documents with her fellow members or to name the source of the information provided.

Photo: Then Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) and TTPS Legal Unit head Christian Chandler.
(via TTPS)

The Chair subsequently did provide the documents but her colleagues did not find the documents compelling and wished to proceed by seeking further information about allegations being made about the issue of Firearms Users Licences, reflecting on outgoing Commissioner Griffith’s stewardship.  

It is further reported that the Chair acted unilaterally in appointing a third party to examine the allegations and in issuing a letter dated 17 September 2021 requiring Griffith not to report for duty until further notice.

The essence of what has happened is that an approach was made to the Chair at President’s House. She took on board what was said and diverted from the course of action on which the PolSC had agreed. She then took further action pursuant to the approach, including the cease to report direction to Griffith, and did so without the knowledge and agreement of the other members of the PolSC.

The outcome of all this is confusion and additional reports of vengeful motivations and the vaulting pretensions of social climbing. The public has been left in a quandary about who is the current acting head of the Police Service and also left to speculate about what else is going on behind the scenes—especially concerning the proposed ‘deal’ to settle Griffith’s lawsuit against the PolSC and likely tension between the Prime Minister and the Attorney General.

Photo: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.

Nevertheless, it is clear to many of us that both the approach made to the Chair and her subsequent actions were questionable and probably involved breaches of the Constitution. Admirably, she has resigned.  

I asked last week who is the unnamed official who approached the Chair and probably made the Chair feel intimidated. He or she must be unmasked.

To use the famous test of a British lawyer, ‘even a moron in a hurry’ will understand the perception of covert or shady dealings that has been created. This will affect the credibility of the government in a wide range of matters, including its vaccination programme. 

The unrefuted allegations also implicate the Office of the President. Will that office disclose who and what was involved in the incident at President’s House?

This step is necessary to remove (if it can) the dark clouds hovering over institutional independence and propriety, starting at the top of the constitutional tree.  

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) presents a letter of appointment to Police Service Commissioner chair Bliss Seepersad.
(Copyright Office of the President)

The PolSC goings-on, especially at the level of President’s House, may have destroyed the last traces of public trust and confidence.

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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One comment

  1. I read Martin Daly’s columns on Wired868 regularly as he provides enlightenment to many topical issues which I appreciate. However, after reading this contribution I am somewhat confused.
    In paragraph 2, the word ‘diverted’ is used in reference to the delivery of the merit order list by the former PolSC chair on August 12 as alleged by the former PolSC commissioner, Mr Roger Kawalsingh. In the last line of the said paragraph it stated that the list was not delivered to Her Excellency.
    Are the readers to assume that the chair did arrive at the Office of the President? This question is in the context that in paragraph 14 it is stated that the unrefuted allegations also implicate the Office of the President and the question is asked will that office disclose who and what was involved in the incident at President House? Now unless there is information that was not disclosed publicly confirming that the chair actually arrived at the Office of the President, which has not been so stated in any of the contributions surrounding this matter that I have previously read nor in this particular contribution, and met someone there other than Her Excellency, it would be merely an assumption that the meeting did in fact take place at the Office of the President and that Her Excellency facilitated and/or was party to the meeting and is implicated in some way.
    In order to bring clarity, it would be very important if it was confirmed that the former PolSC chair did actually arrive at the Office of the President and someone other than Her Excellency was present and held a meeting there.