Gov’t condemns Nizam’s statements as divisive and reckless

(Trinidad Express) – President George Maxwell Richards appears to have no choice but to remove Nizam Mohammed as chairman of the Police Service Commission. On Monday, 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.

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