James Armstrong is waiting to see whether his nomination by President Anthony Carmona to the Police Service Commission (PSC) would go through all the processes required by the law.
He said yesterday that while he would sit down and look at the arguments posed by Reginald Dumas’s attorney, Queen’s Counsel Karl Hudson-Phillips, he would wait and see how things play out.
Questions have been raised over the nomination of Armstrong, a development planner, and Roamar Achat-Saney, an ex-principal who was called to the Bar.
Hudson-Phillips, acting on behalf of former diplomat and former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas, has written to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan “to convey his serious concerns and reservations as a citizen that the nominations by His Excellency of Dr James Kenneth Armstrong and Mrs Roamar Achat-Saney do not comply with the letter and spirit of the requirements of Section 122 (3) of the Constitution”. Hudson-Phillips’s letter hinted at the possibility of a legal challenge to the nominations.
“I would imagine that the people who are commenting on this have their own convictions. It is a legal interpretation of the Constitution. Compared to the persons on either side of this debate, they are far more knowledgeable than I am.
“Given my background, experience and qualifications, I am prepared to be of assistance. And if is it is that you cannot or you should not, then you deal with that. If you are asked to serve your country, what do you do? I would wait to be advised by the luminaries,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong, a former independent senator whose appointment was revoked in mid-term and a former chairman of the Point Fortin Highway Independent Review Committee, said, “I did not anticipate this (controversy over his nomination).”
“Over the past ten to 12 years, I have been asked to serve the country in a number of capacities and I never refused. I was asked to serve in the Senate, to assist with Vision 2020, to serve on the Highway Committee, etc.
“If I turns out that I cannot be of assistance, fine. If I can be of assistance, fine. I was asked and nobody has told me as yet that I shouldn’t or that I couldn’t. There is a process. And I imagine that if it is felt that there is a problem, I guess that would be communicated to me,” he said.
He said he was very philosophical about it and was waiting to see how things would play out.
The Parliament by a majority has to confirm the nomination, which means the Government would have to support it. Sources yesterday said Government was caught “between a rock and a hard place”.
Some members feel an important point has been raised in the Hudson-Phillips letter. “But at the same time, one has to be very careful in dealing with the office of the President,” one Government source said yesterday.
President Anthony Carmona, who has sought independent advice and has spoken to a number of people on the issue, is holding fast to the view that experience without certification can be considered as expertise, sources said.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday he was not commenting on the issue.
The nominations were tabled in the House of Representatives last month. If the President, if he is so minded, issues an instrument rescinding the nomination, the nominations would not be debated. If so, then the nominations are discussed and put to a vote. If the majority of members of the Parliament vote in favour of it, the nominations are confirmed.
In his letter, Hudson-Phillips stated: “Should these nominations be approved by affirmative resolution of the House of Representatives, my client will take such steps as he may be advised to ensure compliance with Section 122 (3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago”.
Section 122 (3) states that the President, after consultation with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, nominates persons who are qualified and experienced in the disciplines of law, finance, sociology or management, to be appointed as members of the PSC.
Hudson-Phillips stated in his letter to Ramlogan that the curricula vitae of both Armstrong and Achat-Saney demonstrate they do not satisfy the requirement of Section 122 (3) and, therefore, are not eligible for appointment as members of the PSC.
He said Armstrong is a development planner, while Achat-Saney was a principal for many years. He noted that she obtained the Legal Education Certificate in September 2012 and was called to the Bar in November 2012.
“Practice of the law for less than one year, cannot, on the most generous assessments, be described as her being experienced in the law,” Hudson-Phillips stated.