Gary Griffith’s strong stance against wrongdoing and dealing with the controversial Life Sport programme were just two of the reasons why Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley fully endorsed him yesterday as this country’s new Commissioner of Police (CoP).
In wrapping up the debate, Rowley instructed the Leader of Government Business, Camille Robinson-Regis to lift the whip on all PNM MPs, allowing them to vote for or against Griffith.
When the votes were taken, the PNM MPs all voted in favour of Griffith while the Opposition’s 13 MPs abstained.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was absent from the House, which Rowley said did not see as “an important one.” He said after Canadian Dwayne Gibbs was fired as CoP in July 2012, Persad-Bissessar never thought it important in her remaining three years in office to appoint another CoP.
Rowley said it was unacceptable for some members of the Police Service to say they will not support Griffith. Promising to make 10,000 copies of the police manpower audit available to the public, he said the contents of the audit reflect Government’s view that “the current Police Service is not able to heal itself.”
However, Barataria/San Juan MP Dr Fuad Khan seemed reluctant when called upon to vote. He was asked by the Parliament’s clerk the question three times before he gave an answer.
Questioned by reporters why he seemed so uncomfortable with his vote, Khan replied: “Go figure it out.” Khan had openly stated last week that the next CoP did not have to be a police officer.
Rowley also responded to Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal who stated that if Griffith was selected by the House and appointed by the Police Service Commission he was likely to be a witness against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan who had been charged with witness tampering.
In 2015, Griffith was removed as national security minister by Persad-Bissessar over allegations that Ramlogan had sought to pervert the course of justice by asking the Director of the Police Complaints Authority to withdraw a statement he had made in support of the then Opposition Leader Rowley in a lawsuit.
Rowley said Griffith’s testimony in this matter was already on record. “The matter which generated that…it was the attorney general of the UNC who sued the Opposition Leader seeking to restrain his public speech…and Madame Speaker, when the Leader of Opposition sought to defend his right to speak and defend the public interest, the then attorney general discovered that there was witness testimony that would have made his lawsuit a difficult one to prosecute,” Rowley said.
“Subsequent to that, he has since discontinued the case against the Opposition Leader because I am no longer to be restrained by him,” Rowley said.
Rowley said when the Emailgate issue surfaced in 2013, Griffith was the only one “to have turned in his device and asked that open access be given to his email account.”
Back then, Rowley had read a thread of 31 email messages in Parliament purporting to be a conversation between four people, whose email accounts were similar to those of Persad-Bissessar, Ramlogan, Griffith and Suruj Rambachan. Following a probe into the matter, the police last year revealed that nothing of substance was found to file any criminal charges.
Rowley said while Moonilal had the temerity to ask him what made him change his mind to support Griffith, the PM said: “Let me give you a good reason.”
Rowley said under the last government, they opened a programme called Life Sport.
“It was supposed to be either $6 or $8 million worth. It eventually turned out to be a $400 million criminal empire that was being funded by the State. It led to murder and mayhem. It led to a level of criminality in the East-West corridor never seen before in the history of T&T.”
At that time, Rowley said Griffith was a member of the then People’s Partnership Cabinet. “And he was in the forefront of alerting the public and standing on what he believed in against a Cabinet that was prepared to defend Anil Roberts and Life Sport in T&T.”
Rowley said the stance Griffith took was the reason why he supported him, stating that he was made of a different mettle.
“That is a good reason for me to change my mind because he stood up for the people of T&T against a Cabinet that was prepared to bury and hide Life Sport. And most importantly, a man who stood up to his colleagues who would ask him to do wrong and do right by the people of T&T.”
He said our country had not yet overcome the effects of Life Sport. “Up to this day. Worst Madame Speaker…from the Opposition, I observed him (Griffith) becoming a pariah in the Government because he was prepared to speak truth to power.”
He said Persad-Bissessar fired Griffith in 2015 for speaking the truth in the same matter involving the former AG.
“He was prepared to be fired in a job that they love but he spoke the truth to the country and if there is a legal matter going on today his testimony is there and he will be crossed-examined in the court.”
The PM said all those who feel the Government had broken the law with Griffith’s nomination “the road to the courthouse is clear. The doors of the court are opened.”
Rowley said many people believed that anyone who served in the political arena should not be considered a CoP.
“We don’t share that view.”