Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley Wednesday said he would not be part of any attempt to use race to destroy the “beauty of our people and the fabric of this land” as the island continues its search for a police commissioner since the post became vacant in 2012.
Parliament last week accepted the report of a Select Committee that found the procedure followed by the Police Service Commission (PSC) was “unsound, unsafe, unsatisfactory and illogical” in seeking a replacement for Canadian Dwayne Gibbs, who resigned the post in 2012. Stephen Williams has been acting in the post since then.
Opposition legislators had staged a walkout prior to the vote on the acceptance of the report, insisting that Deodat Dulalchan, an Indo-Trinidadian with 38 years of service, who had been recommended for the position by the PSC, be given the job.
In a letter to the Trinidad Express newspaper and released by the Office of the Prime Minister, Rowley took issue with columnist Michael Harris, whom he said had described the establishment of a Special Select Committee to examine the PSC procedure as an “elaborate ritual”.
Prime Minister Rowley said the Trinidad Express newspaper columnist had indicated that the Select Committee was convened by the Government “simply because the person recommended by the PSC for the post of Commissioner was an Indian”.
He said given the “experience of your Columnist and the deeply offensive nature of this assertion I must protect your readers from this uninformed piece of misrepresentation by putting the facts before them”.
Prime Minister Rowley said that the records of Parliament would reveal that he had moved the motion asking the House to receive the notification of the President with respect to the recommendation of the Police Service Commission, as required by the Constitution.
He said in doing so he had asked the legislators to appoint the Select Committee and the move was backed by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar, whom he said, according to the Hansard, indicated “we do see merit in having a special Select Committee set up…because the office of the Commissioner of Police is one of the most important offices in the country when it comes to our democracy and enforcement of law and order”
In his lengthy letter to the newspaper in which he quoted extensively from the presentation of the Opposition Leader, Prime Minister Rowley said “yet the Government is accused by Mr. Harris, an experienced columnist, of contriving to act against Mr. Dulalchan, because of his race.
“Logic demands that a similar allegation be made against the Opposition Leader who leads a bench of 18 members of whom 16 are Indo Trinidadians,” he wrote.
He said that it should also be noted that as soon as the head of a Hindu organisation “came out and publicly called for the appointment of Mr. Dulalchan, the Opposition jumped to attention, and the position of Mrs. Persad Bissessar was completely reversed, so much so that today, she considers the numerous flaws in the procedure of the Commission to be minor and insignificant.
“Now, she too favours the promoting a completely false narrative of racial bias on the part of the Government against Mr. Dulalchan, a position of UNC (United National Congress) political gymnastics embarrassingly adopted, without query, by Mr. Harris, the columnist.”
Prime Minister Rowley said that the Hansard record will show, “irrefutably, that on February 2nd 2018, when the Select Committee was established, there was absolutely no support for Mr. Dulalchan to be then found on the Opposition benches.
“As can be explained by a careful perusal of the Parliament’s public records, the Select Committee found that the procedure followed by the Commission was arbitrary, defective and lacked transparency. Consequently, the House of Representatives considered the procedure to be unreliable and, in the majority, concluded that no decision emanating from that procedure will be approved by the House of Representatives.
“As Leader of the PNM (People’s National Movement) and of the Government of this beloved nation, I simply ask of those bent on destroying the beauty of our people and the fabric of this land, that you all just leave the government and all right-thinking citizens out of your regrettable behaviour of race baiting.
“We subscribe to and practice the tenet that make us who we are: “Every creed and race finds an equal place,’ Rowley wrote.
Trinidad and Tobago’s 1.3 million population is mainly comprised of blacks, the descendants of former slaves, East Indians, originally brought to the island as contract labourers from India, whites, and Chinese.