The National Assembly last evening approved a motion to allow the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform to decide how parliament could amend the constitution to increase the number of members on the Police Service Commission (PSC) from five to eight.
The combined opposition did not support the motion, which they say was another attempt by the government to interfere in the affairs of the police force. PNC-IG front-bencher, Winston Murray said that they expected the government to use its majority to pass the motion, allowing the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform to recommend how the change could be effected. He said however, that when it comes to the actual amendment of the constitution, it requires a two-thirds majority and it was at that stage the administration’s wishes would be dashed because the PNCR-1G would not support their efforts.
Alliance For Change MP, Sheila Holder said that she could not see the logic behind the motion and the government could not get her party’s support. The motion which was moved by Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said that Article 210 of the 1980 Constitution provided for a Police Service Commission and its membership to be five, one of whom would be the chairman of the Public Service Commission and one appointed by the President after consultation with such bodies as appears to him to represent the majority of the members of the Police Force. The motion noted that the report of the Oversight Committee on Constitutional Reform on August 2000, to the National Assembly on pages 285-286, provided for amendments to article 210 in relation to the composition of the PSC for a maximum of seven members; four to be appointed by the President upon nomination by the National Assembly after it has consulted ‘such bodies as appears to it to represent the majority of the members of the Police Force and any such body it deems fit” and a chairman to be appointed by the President after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition from among the four Parliamentary nominees.
Rohee’s motion argued that in the process of drafting Constitution (Amendment) No. 3 Bill No. 6/2001, provision was made for four members to be appointed by the President upon nomination by the National Assembly and the appointment of the chairperson by the President after consultation with the Oppo-sition Leader, from among the members appointed from the parliamentary nominees and the chairman of the Public Service Commission.
The motion said that the bill omitted to include the clause “not more than three members exclusive of the Service Commission who shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.”
As a result, Rohee in his motion asked the National Assembly to recognize the error made in drafting the bill and approve steps being taken to rectify the oversight. He further asked the house to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform to examine and make specific recommendations to the National Assembly on how to effect the change.
At present the Police Service Constitution is not fully constituted. Harold Martin, Franchot Duncan-Clarke and Dennis Morgan took the oath of office as members before President Bharrat Jagdeo early last month, but there has been no appointment of a chairman. Jagdeo had told reporters that he and the Leader of the Opposition, Robert Corbin had agreed to go ahead with the swearing in of the three members to sit on the commission while they consult on the appointment of a chairman. Retired Deputy Police Commissioner, Ivan Crandon who was selected to sit on the committee was the President’s appointee to chair the commission. However, Crandon passed away recently leaving the commission without a head.
The National Assembly in August had approved Crandon, Martin, Clarke and Morgan to sit on the commission. With the exception of Morgan the other men were members of the last commission. Morgan himself is a former chairman of the commission.