Daly Bread: Connecting the dots; was Al-Rawi’s fall linked to Griffith’s?

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Owing to pressures on my time, I was unable last Sunday to join in the commentary on the Prime Minister’s confession that he was the high official present at President’s House in August 2021.  

He was not there to meet the President, as he frequently does, but to meet the then Chairman of the Police Service Commission (the PolSC)—around the time that the merit list for appointment to the office of Commissioner of Police ‘was withdrawn’.

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

This confession underlines the need for a clearer account from the office of the President about what part, if any, she played in the events leading up to and following the meeting between the Prime Minister and the PolSC Chair at her official residence.  

With regret, I had cause to describe the first account from the office of President as partly opaque. It remains so and that is inimical to public trust and confidence.

The PM’s confession was closely followed by the demotion of Faris Al-Rawi from the office of attorney general (AG) to minister of local government. It is not too late to connect the dots that run between the downfall of Gary Griffith as commissioner of police and the downfall of Al-Rawi—both of whom may have been seen as trying to outshine the Prime Minister, which is a certain step towards the political graveyard.

May I remind readers that in 2019, and even earlier, I expressed discomfort ‘about Al-Rawi’s lack of scholarly detachment’ and his ‘being in the news for all the wrong reasons’. 

Photo: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi appeared on Vibes with Voicey in March 2021.
Al-Rawi insisted that he did not flout any Covid-19 regulations.

That situation continued throughout Al-Rawi’s tenure as AG and was reflected in these columns in which comment was made about the Vincent Nelson deal and Al-Rawi’s support of Christian Chandler and Adrian Scoon.

A significant clue in order to connect the dots is to be found in last week’s revelations that Al-Rawi, when AG, wanted the office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to draft legislation on his instructions without the support of a Cabinet document or a sign-off from the Prime Minister.

That revelation now opens the door for further consideration of the flawed amending legislation laid in Parliament in June 2021. That legislation made it possible for a police officer, previously serving on contract (as opposed to a full-time career police officer), to be appointed to act in the post of commissioner. 

Griffith was such a person and his term was ending on 17 August 2021, at a time when a substantive appointment might still be a work in progress.

Photo: Then Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (right) and Attorney General Faris Al Rawi.
(via TTPS)

Griffith’s acting appointment was facilitated by clause 4 of a Legal Notice. That form of  legislation is not a bill that requires debate before it can become law as an Act of Parliament. It is subsidiary legislation, which becomes law merely by publication in the Gazette. 

I am informed that such publication precedes laying in the Parliament.

I have often wondered how this Notice made it to publication and laying in Parliament when it was already well known that the Prime Minister was totally dissatisfied with the conduct of Griffith as Commissioner of Police.  

In light of the revelation that the former AG wanted ‘to do his own thing’ with legislation, I now wonder whether there was transparency preceding the publication and laying of this Legal Notice in Parliament when it so obviously might lead to the appointment of Griffith as acting COP—presumably to the displeasure of the Prime Minister.  

Was it Cabinet authorised?

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (centre) in tete-a-tete with then Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in Parliament.
(Copyright Newsday)

As AG, Al-Rawi stood firmly behind the Legal Notice to the point where he was desperate to be sure that clause 4, which enabled Griffith’s appointment, had not been invalidated when the High Court later struck down part of that Notice.  

Even before the Judge promptly had the transcription of the court order amended to make it clear that she had confined the striking down to one part of the Notice involving clause 4, the then AG was braying loudly about an appeal.

The taking of Al-Rawi’s wicket was long in coming given the ring of privileged people protecting it. Is it wrong to perceive that his eventual fall was triggered by the Griffith saga?

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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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