Open letter to Bliss Seepersad on ‘hidden hand of power’ that manipulated CoP Merit List


Dennise Demming Originally published on Tuesday 15 March 2022 in Wired868

Dear Bliss,

On behalf of the Prime Minister and the people of Trinidad and Tobago, I apologise for any anxiety and pain you have experienced over the past six months because our Prime Minister refused to admit that he was the official who, on 12 August 2021, intervened and diverted your attention away from delivering the Merit List of candidates for the post of commissioner of police to the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) presents Police Service Commission chair Bliss Seepersad with her letter of appointment
(Copyright Office of the President)

That single action on his part led to the collapse of the Police Service Commission which you chaired, the President’s Office being viewed with a strong ‘side-eye’ and the further undermining of our citizens’ trust in public office.

Many persons who accept government appointments expect to bring their knowledge and expertise to make a positive difference to the running of the institution. Their roles and responsibilities are clearly outlined either in a statute, a legal document or in the State Enterprise Performance Manual as is the case with appointments to state boards. So, when a Chair comes across overt interference, (s)he is often blindsided.

In this case, I am sure you read and understood the following statement contained in your appointment document about the safeguards. ‘Commissions,’ it says, ‘are free from ministerial control.’

You may also have taken seriously this statement: ‘The fundamental principles inherent in all the regulations are those of fairness, equality, and justice.’

Photo: Former Police Service Commission chair Bliss Seepersad takes the oath of office.
(Copyright Office of the President)

Well, Bliss, you now know that there is an expectation by whoever appoints citizens that you will not act according to the procedures outlined or according to what your board has decided but that you will simply carry out the instructions of the line minister.

You may not agree with me, but this action by our Prime Minister is a clear indication of how undemocratic our country has become. Led by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, our politicians feel that, once elected to office, they can take whatever action they want and even attempt to avoid scrutiny by suggesting to the media that the ‘rahrah’ is just noise.

If further confirmation were needed that there is a hidden hand of power manipulating every action taken in every sphere of life in our country, then this admission by our PM provides it.

No wonder the Procurement Act has been watered down. No wonder persons on boards are often lacking the basic competencies to lead anything. The fact that our PM felt empowered to stymie an official procedure and prevent the list from reaching the President of the Republic as provided makes me question his ethics and values.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and his wife Sharon Rowley (centre) are on hand to witness the country’s Independence Day Parade on 31 August 2018.
(Copyright Ministry of National Security)

Our democracy is under threat. Citizens need to take stock, take a stand and send a clear message that this is unacceptable.

The Prime Minister’s action in preventing the Merit List from reaching the President of the Republic came to public attention. But, I wonder, how many other legitimate actions have been thwarted by the Prime Minister or his ministers? How many contracts have been awarded because he so directed? How many appointments to prime jobs have been made because he took action?

My imagination can run wild.

Bliss, between 12 August 2021 and 14 March 2022, your reputation has taken a big hit. But, I wonder, has anything really changed after six months of a Shaggy-esque pretense that it wasn’t me and allowing speculation to run wild?

Yours in defence of our democracy,

Dennise Demming

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