Prime Minister Rowley at Post Cabinet Media Briefing (Thursday 14th July 2016)
POST CABINET PRESS BRIEFING SUMMARY
The Honourable Faris Al Rawi, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Honourable Colm Imbert, Minister of Finance and the Honourable Stuart Young, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister in the Office of the Attorney General, addressed members of the media during the Post Cabinet Press Briefing today (Thursday 14th July, 2016) at the Office of the Prime Minister, St. Clair, Port of Spain.
During the conference, the Attorney General addressed the decision in the case of Maharaj, Harridath v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago which was delivered today by the Honourable Mr Justice Peter Rajkumar. The claim was brought by the opposition challenging the selection process for the appointment of a Commissioner of Police and a Deputy Commissioner of Police. The previous selection process was very complicated and the Government committed to amending the process as, not only was it wholly unacceptable to have an acting Commissioner of Police in addition to a selection process that is so time consuming, but the office of the Commissioner of Police needs to be solidified and certain.
The following must be noted:
• The ruling has not disturbed the current process for the appointment of a Commissioner of Police – the process is well afoot.
• The Cabinet has approved the necessary funding for the retention of an appropriate firm.
• The order stands in very material parts, specifically the order allows for the Police Service Commission to march the process forward – not the Director of Personnel Administration.
• The order which says a local firm can be used stands – it is no longer required that a foreign firm be engaged.
• Several elements of the long winded process were removed
• Also removed was the Exception to the Central Tenders Board Act
The Attorney General also noted that the advice of a Senior Counsel has been sought on the judgement. The Government is resolute that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service be led by a confirmed and permanent Commissioner of Police so that the management which is given under the Constitution can be exercised with certainty and authority and the office holder provided with security of tenure as intended by the Constitution.
Minister Imbert, as the acting Minister of Health in the absence of Minister Deyalsingh, addressed issues with funding for the Ministry of Health. He noted that there was a significant overhang from the previous administration in terms of bills due and bills payable. As a result, $245 million TTD has been approved for the Ministry of Health to assist in resolving this situation which includes medication shortages.
Minister Imbert also discussed allegations of apparent conflicts of interest on the Board of National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB). He confirmed that the NLCB Board wrote to the Statutory Authorities Service Commission presenting a prima facie case of conflict of interest over a month ago. In the letter, it was requested that the persons under suspicion be put on some sort of leave. Subsequently, the Statutory Authorities Service Commission took no action.
Prime Minister Rowley then instructed the Minister of Finance to conduct an audit into the NLCB. However, information received indicated that the performance of an audit would prove difficult as the persons being audited are still present despite the fact that the standard practice dictates that persons being investigated be sent on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigations.
Minister Imbert lamented that this matter is out of the Government’s control due to the fact that the Statutory Authorities Service Commission is an independent body. However, he noted that the Government may move to act on a suggestion made many years ago which proposes to repeal the Statutory Authorities Service Commission Act and place its responsibilities under the purview of the Public Service Commission.
Minister Young also addressed the media briefing and presented some details on Prime Minister Rowley’s upcoming visit to Jamaica. Minister Young confirmed that Dr. Rowley will travel to Jamaica from July 17th-21st on an invitation by the Jamaican Prime Minister. The Government of Jamaica will also cover the cost accommodation for the Prime Minister and two (2) government ministers.
The proposal for discussions include the deepening of bilateral relationships between the two nations in the areas of trade and economic cooperation, tourism, immigration and consular matters, energy matters, technical and cultural corporation and cooperation on security matters. There will also be discussions on the strengthening of Caribbean institutions via the revitalisation of the CARICOM and Association of Caribbean States (ACS) as well as the expansion of cooperation in internal affairs via sustainable development issues, the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and matters related to trans-national organised crime.
The official delegation, led by Prime Minister Dr. Rowley also includes ministers of government as well as the Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and member of the Opposition, Mr. Prakash Ramadhar. Ms. Ramona Ramdial was also invited but she regretfully declined.
Prime Minister Dr. Rowley also addressed an article in today’s Guardian Newspaper by Shaliza Hassanali which reported claims by the General Secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj, that Former Prime Minister Patrick Manning was “racist”. A full transcript of the Prime Minister’s remarks will be posted shortly.