Senator: Don't let top cop probe 'New Flying Squad'
Independent Senator Dr Rolph Balgobin disagrees with the National Security Council's (NSC) decision to refer the matter of the New Flying Squad Investigation Unit (NFSIU), led by retired police sergeant Mervyn Cordner, to acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams for investigation.
He says it is unfortunate that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar would put Williams in a position of investigating his line minister, National Security Minister Jack Warner.
"I wish to report that after full discussion and careful deliberations, the National Security Council took the decision to refer the said reports (of Warner and National Security Operations Centre director Garvin Heerah) for an investigation into any alleged wrongdoing, unlawful conduct and/or action by any or all persons purported to be involved in this matter," the Prime Minister said in a statement to Parliament.
But now that she's done so, Balgobin believes the Prime Minister should relieve Warner of his portfolio until a proper investigation into the NFSIU can be completed.
Balgobin told the Sunday Express he was making these statements because he felt the issue was of sufficient gravity to merit national concern.
"It's an issue of public safety and strikes to the very heart of the rule of law," he said.
Balgobin said the NFSIU was a "very serious matter" as it gave a group access similar to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force.
"Based on what's in the public domain, what you have is a bunch of civilians looking for and receiving the support of the ministry to act outside the law," explained Balgobin.
He pointed out that Williams' name has also been drawn into the matter of the NFSIU.
"He can't say he didn't know since he dismissed the idea when it was brought to him. And if he found there was no basis for an investigation before, why would it be different now?" he asked.
"To top it off, he's being asked to investigate a man (Warner) who can directly influence his confirmation as Commissioner of Police. How can you expect him to deliver an objective perspective? And is it fair to even ask him to do so?" asked Balgobin.
"To me, this is totally ridiculous," said Balgobin.
He also dismissed the report submitted by Heerah on the NFSIU.
The report was published exclusively in last week's Sunday Express.
Heerah had met with Cordner on several occasions and while he facilitated the NFSIU with vehicles, he said there was never any approval by the ministry for Cordner's team.
"If we are to take Heerah's statement at face value, anybody can just walk into the Ministry of National Security and demand and get a meeting. To me, it implies that it simply was not a relationship that was at arm's length," he said.
"There is a major intelligence failing on the part of the TTPS if they did not know about the NFSIU. And there is also a major governance issue if they knew and did not act upon it," said Balgobin.
He observed that while Cordner had his own issues to answer, "if he is guilty of an untruth, he's not alone on the playing field".
"Nobody knows anything yet. You have these people who are ready to sign affidavits to say their unit was operational," he said.
"This is what keeps T&T a developing country—when there is no transparency in operations. As citizens we should all be concerned. If Mr Warner is innocent, he deserves every right to be exonerated in an independent fashion and it should not be by someone who is reporting to him. How does that inspire anyone in the outcome of the investigation?" he said.
Balgobin does not share the view that the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is the necessary appropriate vehicle for investigation of such a matter.
"The police should investigative the matter but not while Mr Warner remains the minister. It would be difficult for them to do while Mr Warner continues to occupy his post," he said.
Attorney Dana Seetahal, SC, has also said she did not think Williams was the best person to embark upon an enquiry of the NFSIU.
"On the face of it, it seems to be that having an independent body or person doing the investigation would have been the preferred course," she had told the Sunday Express.
For his part, acting Commissioner Williams declined to discuss the matter yesterday. He told the Sunday Express that any statement he made could prejudice the matter.
"I have already made a clear statement on the matter and I am not commenting further," he said.