(Trinidad Express) President George Maxwell Richards appears to have no choice but to remove Nizam Mohammed as chairman of the Police Service Commission.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the leader of the Government who promised a new kind of politics, roundly criticised Mohammed, in effect clearing the path for his dismissal. It is, however, only the President who can act.
In a strongly worded statement from the Office of the Prime Minister, titled: “Statement from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago”, the People’s Partnership Government “categorically condemned” Mohammed’s “reckless … senseless … and divisive comments”.
Speaking at a Joint Select Committee meeting last Friday, Mohammed expressed concern about the ethnic composition of the Police Service, saying the records showed there were more Africans than East Indians. He pledged, as chairman of the PSC, to deal with this imbalance “with the assistance of the Parliament” and cited this commitment as the reason why “the guns were now aimed at him”. Mohammed has previously been the target of criticism because of a traffic incident in Port of Spain last year.
Since his explosive statements on Friday, criticism has continued to mount and pressure has persistently piled up for Mohammed to go, with many persons calling on the Government to state whether he had been given a mandate to address the ethnic imbalance in the service and whether Government supported this position.
Apparently responding, the Government, which vehemently supported Mohammed’s appointment, reversed itself by pulling the rug from under him, stating: “Mr Mohammed must be held accountable for his inflammatory and unwise remarks which in no way represent the views of the Government. The five leaders that formed the political grouping that brought this Government to power is the broadest-based representation ever held in this nation and the insularity propagated by Mr Mohammed’s reckless and senseless comments run against the very grain of the philosophy that now governs this country.”
It added: “Our mission as a Government is to … create a meritocracy based on people’s ability to do their jobs, race must not and will never be a consideration.”
The statement, however, stopped short of calling for Mohammed to be fired. The statement was, however, in tandem with comments given by Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, who led the charge in immediately condemning Mohammed’s remarks at the very JSC meeting, followed closely by Senator David Abdulah. Works Minister Jack Warner was also quick out of the blocks when he too expressed his “hurt and disappointment”, saying had he been in his shoes, he (Warner) would have resigned immediately. However, in sharp contrast, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said Mohammed raised a “legitimate” development issue, while Local Government Minister Chandresh Sharma stated that people should not shoot the messenger and debate must take place on the issue with a view to addressing any disparity which may exist.
The police executive, who for the first time in this country’s history have come out publicly against a PSC chairman, have also named the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan as another government official who expressed sentiments similar to Mohammed’s at a meeting with the police executive earlier this year.
The Congress of the People, who met in emergency session yesterday to discuss Mohammed’s comments, called on the Prime Minister to advise the President that Mohammed’s appointment be revoked “with immediate effect”.
Today, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley meets the President at 2 p.m. with a view to renewing his request for Richards to remove Mohammed from office on the grounds of “proven unsuitability”. Rowley, who had written to Richards last week calling for Mohammed’s dismissal, stated yesterday: “Nizam Mohammed’s behaviour as chairman of the PSC has become even more untenable in the face of his reckless, self-serving comments … in which he outlined for himself the task of redressing perceived racial discrimination in the Police Service. Mr Mohammed’s unfortunate statement does not only attack the integrity of previous Police Service Commissions but also disturbs the morale of the Police Service and threatens the social fabric of stability which has been the hallmark of our existence as a multi-ethnic society.”
Rowley added that “in the light of similar statements made by the Attorney General at the New York Mission and locally to First Division Police Officers”, the Prime Minister should state whether any assurance was given to Mohammed that her Government would use its parliamentary majority to rectify his perceived racial discrimination in the Police Service.
Rowley had objected last July when Richards proposed Mohammed as one of the nominees for appointment to the PSC, arguing he was a “serial politician” and thus unqualified to serve on a commission.