It remains conjectural precisely what had placed the deepest wound in the sensitive soul of our famously thin-skinned prime minister: the cost of seducing Ausbert Regis out of his police commissioner’s duds, or that the lion’s share of the $220,000 had gone to the Ramsahoye Commission’s pesky Trinidadian prosecutor and not to our prime minister’s best friend and lawyer for all seasons?
In all events it would seem a large section of the populace believes this country’s taxpayers have consequently been shafted yet again, with the imported lawyers and their local abettors laughing all the way to their respective banks. To hear the people as they expressed their anguish to Newsspin’s Timothy Poleon and other self-appointed takers of this comatose nation’s pulse, the former police commissioner was never our most effective rat catcher. Many recalled that when he was directly accountable for the protection of our lives and property crime had risen to levels unprecedented. At its wit’s end what next to do, the government had imported outside help that finally had served only to remind the people of a past best forgotten.
The government had in desperation also launched a hush-hush probe into the operations of the police force that uncovered information as shocking as was the conduct of the investigation itself. So discombobulating it was that the home affairs minister had ordered the report’s immediate disappearance. Alas, a few copies survived the official shredder to be read out aloud by a less cautious government minister during an unforgettable, self-serving radio interview.
Judging by what I’ve heard over the last two weeks on Newsspin and elsewhere, it would appear many concerned citizens remain misinformed about the details of Justice Wilkinson’s verdict, my own related article in last weekend’s STAR notwithstanding. Here now, some salient reminders: In 2010, after he was officially transferred to another department attached to the prime minister’s office, the commissioner of police sued the government via its attorney general, on the grounds that the Cabinet had no authority to remove him, or to recommend his removal or transfer. Further, that Cabinet had, contrary to law, influenced the Public Service Commission’s decision to transfer him.
To quote from Justice Wilkinson’s written judgment: “In respect to the first issue, that a police commissioner cannot be removed from his post to some other post within the Public Service, as shown, his post is not protected against removal in the same way that a Chief Elections Officer, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director of Audit are protected.”
Further: “As the court understands the authorities, the principle is that the PSC is entitled to take advice, and even if someone tells the PSC who to transfer or appoint, the PSC at the end of the day must exercise its own initiative.”
The judge referred to a statement by the PSC’s secretary, that it was usual for the PSC to receive names of individuals and recommendations for consideration for appointments. “This, to the court’s mind appears to be reasonable,” said Justice Wilkinson, “given that the general make-up of a commission would be persons called upon to serve who are unfamiliar with the individuals about whom they are called to make decisions.”
Besides, it was difficult without reliable evidence “for the claimant to assert the PSC was influenced by the Cabinet to make the decision that it made to remove him as commissioner of police.”
As for the question, whether the claimant ought to have been given a hearing before the decision to transfer him in the best interests of national security, the authorities had shown, that “when the defense of national security is put up, it cannot be a mere bald statement; there must be evidence before the court to support it.” And obviously the judge was not satisfied that such evidence existed. The court found that the defense failed on its defense of national security and that the claimant ought to have been given a hearing before the PSC.
Consequently, the court voided the PSC’s decision to transfer and appoint the claimant to the office of Director of Special Services and declared him “entitled to continue in his position as commissioner of police.”
So, now, some new questions: What do his detractors mean when they say the former prime minister illegally removed Ausbert Regis from office? What precisely did King do in his circumstances that was contrary to law? The court clearly established, judging by all the evidence before Justice Wilkinson, that it was the PSC in its own deliberate judgment—which is to say, uninfluenced by the Cabinet or anyone else—that had removed the commissioner.
If memory serves, shortly after the verdict was announced the former prime minister publicly declared his government’s intention to appeal. Was his decision based on the assertion that the police commissioner should’ve been afforded an opportunity to address the PSC in advance of his transfer? Was there even a small chance of a successful appeal? Is there a law that specifically entitles employees to discussions with the boss before they can be transferred without loss of privileges to another department of their company? Or are we here relying yet again on an arcane interpretation, this time of the principle of natural justice?
How many public service transfers effected in 1997-2006, and before, were preceded by talks between the PSC and the affected individuals? In any case, whatever happened to the Public Service Appeal Board headed by Vernon Gill? Why did Regis not turn to that body, if indeed he felt he had been unfairly treated?
Whether the previous prime minister was serious about an appeal or merely “playing politricks,” we may never know. But bearing in mind all that was said in relation to the case—and by whom!—did anyone truly expect this present
attorney general’s office to pick up where the last administration left off on this matter?
What a curious coincidence that the judge’s verdict in this suit that was filed in June 2010 and heard in January 2011 could not be delivered until November 21 of that year, on the eve of elections. Would a further delay of the court’s announcement by a few days have one way or the other
affected the verdict—or public opinion?
Keeping in mind the mindless media publicity that effectively legitimated the propagated falsehood that the then prime minister had illegally moved the police commissioner to a previously unheard of public service department, can it be said with any degree of certitude that the late November verdict was not an inadvertent contributor to the great fall of King’s merry men? Might a week’s delay of the court announcement have dispelled any opportunity for possibly prejudiced speculation?
The on-going Ausbert Regis brouhaha has been further muddied by the official announcement of the former police commissioner’s “happy” acceptance of the position of national security advisor to the prime minister, a deal further sweetened by a salary increase precedentially negotiated by his lawyer and—depending on who is telling the tale—the Public Service Commission or the attorney general’s office. Those who claim the negotiators were none other than the prime minister himself and the former commissioner’s lawyer—who, as I say, is also the prime minister’s lawyer for all seasons, not to say best friend—are of course wildly speculating without the smallest evidence. At any rate, none that might stand up before Justice Wilkinson!
Never mind his sometimes shocking pronouncements on the case before and throughout the recent election campaign, and in times more recent, I have been reassured by reliable sources that the current prime minister took absolutely no part in the negotiations that had resulted in the welcomed elevation of Ausbert Regis, whether with the attorney general or with PSC representatives—for which small mercy we should all be thankful. Otherwise, who knows who might’ve decided to head back to court, at further expense to our increasingly penurious nation?
I dare to say I am presuming the leader of the opposition is not of a mind to emulate his immediate predecessor and initiate a judicial review of circumstances associated with the political bastardization of Justice Wilkinson’s verdict—which could possibly amount to twisting a Brutus blade in great Caesar’s already wounded heart!