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Drayton urges debate to fast-track CoP

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

INDEPENDENT Senator Hel­en Drayton yesterday questioned why in the midst of this country’s spiralling crime, the Upper House was not debating a way to untangle the convoluted web currently in place to appoint a police commissioner.

Drayton made the statement as she began her contribution during the debate on the bill to replace the Town and Country Planning Act.

The issue of the complex process currently in place to appoint a police commissioner in this country has been a bugbear for chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) Prof Ramesh Deosaran.

On August 7, 2012, this coun­try’s last substantive police commissioner, Canadian Dr Dwayne Gibbs, served his last day in office.

Stephen Williams, whose substantive post is Deputy Police Commissioner, has been acting as Police Commissioner since July 31, 2012.

At the end of this month, Williams’ second six-month acting appointment is scheduled to end.

It is anticipated he would be given another six-month extension.

Speaking to the media last week, Deosaran said there is no end in sight in the search for a substantive commissioner of police in this country.

In fact, the process to find one has not started, he said.

Since the vacancy left as a result of Gibbs’ resignation, Deosaran has complained of the bureaucratic nightmare that surrounds the process of filling the post of police commissioner.

PSC member Martin George said in this country, it is easier to select a chief justice, president and even prime minister than to choose a com­missioner of police.

One of the first hurdles to be crossed in the selection process is the Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) advertising for a firm to be chosen to conduct the assessment to chose a police commissioner.

Some 16 months after the post of police commissioner became vacant, no suitable firm has been found to undertake this task.

Drayton yesterday questioned why Parliament was not doing something to correct this.

Drayton began her contribution commending Planning Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie and all those who con­tributed to the preparation and production of the bill being debated.

“I must say however that while this bill is important, we would have thought that the major priority facing the nation at the moment is crime and, certainly, a law that repeals the current system, the current convoluted system of appointing a police commissioner,” Drayton said.

“So I think that it is unfortunate that such a critical aspect of national life is not be­ing dealt with the priority that it deserves,” she said.

Up to press time last night, the murder toll for the year was 27.

Drayton said there is no question the Town and Country Planning Act has served its purpose and time has come to repeal and replace it.

She however echoed calls by Opposition Senator Ca­m­ille Robinson-Regis for the bill to be first sent to a Joint Se­lect Committee of Parliament.

“There is no question in my mind that the various agencies have all fallen down on the job in protecting our environment,” Drayton said.

“The environment has been abused and it continues to be abused. On the other hand, building just seems to happen without regard for sustainable development and the environment,” she said.

Drayton said people were constructing indiscriminate­ly in this country.

“Anyone travelling along the Western Main Road can ask a very legitimate question: ‘Who gave permission for the continued stealing of land from the sea,’” Drayton said.

“Last time I checked with the EMA (Environmental Management Authority), no one in authority can answer the question, which left no doubt in my mind that permission had not been given and the continued stealing of the land continues,” she said.

Drayton yesterday slammed the indiscriminate use of corporate billboard advertising, which she said has “assumed proportions of environmental litter”.

She said the Government was not “powerless” in this regard and should therefore address the situation.

“If you are not prepared to deal with the low-lying fruit hanging in front of your nose, how are you going to implement this bill, particularly at the local government level, and get adherence to what it calls for?” Drayton asked.

“It would seem that no one in authority cares about keeping a clean and healthy environment, including the EMA. It is silent on the environmental litter, the ministry responsible for the environment and Town and Country are also silent,” she said.

Drayton’s contribution, which lasted around 15 minutes, was disrupted for a significant time as she misplaced her speaking notes. 

The Upper House unanimously agreed to give Drayton time to search for her speaking notes. 

The tea break was taken half an hour earlier than expected as a result.

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