A proper debate

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Rowley – SUREASH CHOLAI

GOVERNMENT and Opposition MPs should use the opportunity of today’s sitting of Parliament to set an appropriate tone regarding the historic nomination of Erla Christopher to the post of Commissioner of Police.

The sitting comes after the country recorded one of the bloodiest – if not the bloodiest – Januarys in its history.

It is also the culmination of a recruitment process necessitated by the scrapping of a previous effort amid circumstances which have tried the patience of ordinary citizens still reeling from years of spiralling crime, including last year’s record-setting murder toll.

Ms Christopher’s name is the first out of the gate. The constitutional motion to be debated today in the Prime Minister’s name indicates she is “the highest graded candidate,” a fact which would, in ordinary circumstances, automatically recommend her for confirmation as the first female top cop.

But we are not living in ordinary times.

Nor are politicians compelled, under our current, convoluted system, to choose the top pick of the Police Service Commission. Top candidates in the past have been bypassed.

The process by which a nomination is considered and debated is ostensibly designed to give MPs a chance to raise matters which they deem relevant and compelling.

Why the process allows MPs to effectively override the deliberations of an independent, expert commission is a mystery, but it is at this stage the system we have and is likely to have for years to come until such time as there is meaningful reform.

For the moment, we hope the tone of the proceedings matches the gravity of the task at hand.

The country does not need yet another traumatic rehashing of our well-drawn political fault lines which result in almost every parliamentary sitting having an acrimonious tone.

We need to see our leaders and democratically-elected representatives from all sides demonstrate competence and a willingness to uphold their constitutional oaths.

Dr Rowley on Tuesday hinted at the need for confidence to be restored through unified action.

“The Parliament has to take a decision. By the Parliament, I mean all 41 of us,” he said, expressing the view that “the system is working.”

But it is precisely whether the system is working that is at stake.

In an ideal world, there would be a consensus candidate whom all 41 MPs can get behind. It remains to be seen whether the current acting top cop is that candidate.

The Opposition has already called for transparency about the selection process and clarity over possible arrangements that will be adopted given the fact that the nominee is due to age out of the service.

Whatever the fate of the nomination, MPs must be able to live with their decision.