Chairman of the Joint Select Committee charged with scrutinising the Ministry of National Security, James Armstrong, said yesterday that he would be sending out correspondence to members of the Committee to ascertain whether they wanted to call in the ministry or any agencies under the National Security Ministry in order to conduct an enquiry into reports of the re-establishment of the Flying Squad.
The JSC's mandate is "to enquire into and report on Ministries with responsibility in areas listed as Group 2 and on the Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises falling under those ministers". National Security falls into this group.
Armstrong stressed that he would have to get the view of the majority of members on the committee to determine "the level of interest in going that route".
He was asked by the Express about the possibility to using the Joint Select Committee system to conduct an investigation or to call the Ministry to account in the context of allegations about a New Flying Squad Investigations Unit as well as to look at the rising crime situation.
Members of the JSC are Ministers Dr Tim Gopeesingh, Clifton De Coteau, Lincoln Douglas, Kevin Ramnarine and Bhoe Tewarie, along with Collin Partap and Lyndira Oudit (for the Government); Dr Lester Henry, Alicia Hospedales and Fitzgerald Jeffrey (for the Opposition); and Independent Senators Dr Victor Wheeler (deputy chairman) and Armstrong.
Tewarie said if there is something very specific that the committee wanted answers on, it would not be appropriate for the committee to just call in the Ministry of National Security. He said members of Cabinet are responsible to Cabinet and Cabinet is ultimately accountable to the Parliament and Parliament is accountable to the people. "If there is something very specific that the committee wants answers on, I am willing to consider it. But if it is general investigation of the Ministry of National Security I don't think I would be inclined to support a parliamentary committee investigation before Cabinet is allowed to do its job," he said.
Asked if he would support an enquiry into whether there was a new Flying Squad Investigations Unit, Tewarie said: "Remember we have not had a report from Cabinet on that matter yet."
However Jeffrey said he fully supported the idea of the JSC summoning the relevant persons and agencies to determine whether allegations that a NFSIU was operating were true. "That should have been done since yesterday. This thing is putting the country in a bad light and we need to address this interest. How could you have a Flying Squad and the Commissioner of Police and National Security Minister don't know anything about it?". Jeffrey said it was strange that the reports of the operation of a NFSIU came months after the National Security Minister had talked about reviving the Squad.
Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj has called on the Prime Minister to trigger a special Joint Select Committee to scrutinise the Ministry within the next few days.