Monday, February 19, 2018

Lucky: Bring on the PCA probe

Embattled director of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Gillian Lucky said yesterday the PCA was ready to co-operate with the police fully in their criminal probe into the leaking of two sensitive reports involving the operations of an unauthorised police unit called the New Flying Squad Investigative Unit (NFSIU).  

Lucky told the Sunday Express that up to yesterday the PCA had not, however, been officially informed of any investigation. 

“The PCA has not been officially informed about the investigation into the leak of the PCA report dealing with the existence of the New Flying Squad.”

However, she assured, “The PCA stands ready to co-operate with the police in the execution of their duty.”

She was responding to a media report indicating acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams had launched a probe into the leaking of the reports, to determine whether any criminal act was committed, and who are the people that should be held accountable for this. 

Both the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and the PCA had investigated and compiled separate reports into the operations of the NFSIU following media reports that a rogue police unit had been set up last year, to deal with the escalating crime situation.

Both reports found the unit was indeed operational and had no authority to function nor was it sanctioned by acting Commissioner Williams. 

Lucky and the PCA have been under unwavering scrutiny from Government officials ever since copies of two reports were leaked to People’s National Movement (PNM) Senator Faris Al-Rawi and Sunday Express investigative journalist Anika Gumbs.

Gumbs reported exclusively in the Sunday Express of April 3, in a front page article headlined “Pretend Police”,  that the “conduct” of the head of the National Security Operations Centre (NSOC), Commander Garvin Heerah—the then strategic adviser to the Ministry of National Security—be “examined”.

Heerah is still on the job.

Both reports were submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to determine whether criminal charges should be laid against people named in the reports, since it was discovered the NFSIU was operating without proper authorisation.

Sources told the Sunday Express that Lucky may be asked to demit office for the duration of the probe, but Lucky gave a “no comment” response to such claims. 

She, along with her deputy director, Master Ralph Doyle, was appointed to office on December 29, 2010, eight months after the People’s Partnership Government came into office. 

The PCA is an independent corporate body, mandated to independently investigate complaints against police officers involved in criminal offences, police corruption and serious police misconduct. It was established by the PCA Act 2006 to provide civilian oversight of law enforcement in Trinidad and Tobago, according to its website. 

Lucky, a former government senator, has been under heat from Attorney General Anand Ramlogan over the “confidentiality” of the report and the “source(s)” who has clearly stated the leaking of the documents was a criminal offence and was in clear violation of Section 47 of the PCA Act. 

To date, both the PCA and the Office of the DPP have denied leaking the reports.

Highly incensed by the leaking of the reports, Ramlogan has called for an investigation and has taken direct aim at Lucky for her comments that the PCA report was not a confidential document .

She said this before a  Joint Select Committee (JSC) last Tuesday, when she was questioned on the leak at Hamilton Maurice Room, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, 

 In a statement on Thursday, Ramlogan made it clear he has a “duty to protect the public interest by highlighting violations of the law so that the relevant authorities can take such action as they deem appropriate. I am satisfied that I have performed my duty and the ball is therefore now in Faris Al-Rawi’s court. The Commissioner of Police and the Integrity Commission will also, no doubt, discharge their duties in accordance with the law”.

The AG also stated “failure to investigate could be interpreted as an abdication of one’s legal duty and responsibility, but that is a judgment call and a matter for the discretion of the relevant authorities”.

At the Police Service news conference on Wednesday, Williams had indicated a police probe was not required at the time. 

“Not every call for an investigation will require an investigation,” Williams told reporters then.

 But in a change of position, one day later, Williams has mandated Assistant Commissioner of Police Deodath Dulalchan to spearhead investigations into the “leaks”.

The Sunday Express contacted Williams for a comment yesterday, but he insisted he was misquoted in the media, about not launching an investigation, and therefore would only communicate via written questions to him. 

This newspaper complied with his request, but up to press time there was no response from him to six questions posed on the Flying Squad issue, as to the scope of his investigation, how long would such a probe take, will the DPP and Lucky be interviewed, will the probe also include the Police Service or just the PCA?

The Sunday Express also asked whether Lucky, who was appointed in 2010 by then president Maxwell Richards based on the agreement of both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, should be asked to step down during the investigation?

Williams was asked, as well, to say whether his lead investigator, ACP Dulalchan, was ever transferred within the Service due to allegations pertaining to his character as an officer of the law?

Up to press time, there was no response from Williams and several follow-up calls to his cellphone went unanswered. 

Meanwhile, Minister of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar, who is considered to be the “line minister” with responsibility for the PCA, confirmed that a complaint from him, or from any member of the society for that matter, to the President against Lucky could trigger her revocation of appointment. 

Asked if he was so inclined to do, Ramadhar sidestepped the question.

Instead, he said: “I think the sole issue is to find the leak and deal with those persons. The integrity of the PCA must be preserved. ... I ask for a proper investigation. I do not wish to make any comment on the investigation at this time. I would also say that Ms Lucky has shown herself to be very robust and I really do hope we could solve this mystery (of the leaks). I expect her office will co-operate with the police investigations, as well as Senator Al-Rawi and any other persons of interest.”

Asked how come the reports, whose leaks have been described by AG Ramlogan as treasonous and a breach of national security, did not come to the attention of the National Security Council or even him, in his capacity as the PCA’s “line minister”, Ramadhar said he had been out of the country for a while and had only returned on April 20 and had never seen a copy of the reports. 

Ramadhar said he also sits on the National Security Council and even in that capacity he had not seen the Flying Squad reports. 

He felt, however, the distraction of the “leaks” was hurting the findings of the reports.

“I feel it is necessary for me to make this point that the creation of this matter of the Flying Squad would be of the greatest concern to me and to the national security of this country because if there is any wrongdoing, there should be no distraction from that. 

“It is important to have proper process and the issue of leaks speaks directly to that position that you can do whatever you want without consequence, and then you get it in the mail box. It should not be lost that the whole issue of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT) was one of legality and this Government dealt with that, so it is clear that any such operations like the Flying Squad must have governmental scrutiny,” said Ramadhar.

 The PP Government disbanded SAUTT early in its term of office, saying it was operating illegally and was spying on civilians, including politicians and trade unions.

Ramadhar said developed societies all have developed secret service acts to protect sensitive information and to ensure information does not get out before time to warn the wrongdoers.