FORMER Public Service head, Reginald Dumas, yesterday called on President George Maxwell Richards to clarify the grounds on which Gladys Gafoor has been suspended as deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission.
Dumas said a public statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Gafoor has been suspended due to complaints against her for "certain conduct" is too vague and it should be clarified whether Gafoor is being investigated for leaking information to the media.
"We need to know what is the nature of these leaks," Dumas said.
Dumas said it is also inappropriate that the President's statement was sent from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Communications and not from the Office of the President.
"This is not the first administration to do that but it is not right. There must be a separation of government and State, so if this action was taken by the President and not the government, the statement should have come from the President."
The announcement of the suspension and of the appointment of a tribunal to investigate claims against Gafoor by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came shortly after the Port of Spain office of Newsday was raided by police and files and a computer used by reporter Andre Bagoo seized.
The raid was in connection with investigations into leaks at the Integrity Commission.
Dumas said yesterday these incidents on the same day have caused confusion and it must be made clear whether there is a link between the police investigation and Gafoor's suspension.
The question of press freedom in a society that sees itself and is seen as democratic must also arise, he said.
"If it was found that the Newsday was receiving information from the Integrity Commission, when would that have been confirmed? How is it that you can set up a tribunal so quickly?" Dumas questioned.
"These are things that must be clarified. Is it to say that it is being suggested that Mrs Gafoor is the source of these leaks?" he asked.
Section 136 (7) of the Constitution which gives the President the authority to suspend a public officer such as Gafoor states: "The officer may be removed from office only for inability to discharge the functions of his office, whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause or for misbehaviour and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of (10)."
The "misbehaviour" stated in 136 (7) and referred to in the President's statement, must be expanded upon, Dumas said.
He also questioned the position of the media as of late, considering a raid in December 2011 on the newsroom of TV6, in connection with police investigations into CrimeWatch host, Ian Alleyne, and yesterday's incursion into Newsday.
Added to this, he said was the beating of civilians by police on the Greens at the Savannah last Sunday during Panorama, which further raises the question of freedom.
"We see ourselves and are seen as democratic. Are we now saying that if you are an investigative reporter you must reveal your sources?" Dumas asked.
He added: "This is very worrying. May one be permitted to wonder whether we are descending into a police state? I think Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, who has spoken a lot recently about policing in 2012, must address this."