Thursday, June 24, 2004

TT: If you propose our idea we can't support it

SO FAR, the prospect that mutually satisfactory compromises will be made to the Police Reform Bill to facilitate its approval by the House on Tuesday seems quite remote. Although Prime Minister Manning and Opposition Leader Panday are expected to meet before the debate, it is difficult for us to see where or how an amicable agreement can be reached on these critical pieces of legislation. At the very least, Mr Panday and the UNC will have to make a virtual about face in their adamant opposition to the Bills, thus inflicting a political debacle on themselves. In recognising this, the Government has decided to bring this prolonged controversy to a showdown debate in the House, where both sides will have the opportunity to present their views on the legislation, giving the country’s citizens, as Mr Manning has observed, the chance to make  their own conclusions. For this purpose, the Bills have been transferred from the Upper to the Lower House and, in the current circumstances, the coming full dress debate may well be the next best way of dealing with this irksome matter.

Mr Panday and his party will be given ample time and opportunity to explain to the people why they have chosen to oppose the same and identical Police Reform Bill which the UNC government had brought to Parliament in July 2001. A release from Whitehall earlier this week quoted former Prime Minister Panday when he tabled the legislation in the House, saying, “It is proposed that this Police Management Authority would be an independent body — may I repeat — an independent body, appointed by the President on the joint advice of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.” When he was presenting the Bill as PM, Mr Panday insisted that the proposed PMA would be independent. Now that he is in the Opposition, he is pleased to condemn the PMA as creating a dangerous avenue for politicising the Police Service. In our view, this capricious, indeed cynical, about turn is classical Pandayesque behaviour by which, amazingly enough, he is still able to maintain the untroubled support of his party and its hierarchy.

But the Opposition Leader will have to do more than just explain that diametrical turnaround to the people on Tuesday. In rejecting the Bill, he and the UNC parliamentarians will also have to offer what they see as proper and effective alternatives for achieving the vital objective of reforming the Police Service. For there can be no doubt in their minds — since this was their intent in producing the legislation in the first place — that transforming the outmoded structure of the service to make it more efficient and accountable must be a necessary part of the country’s war against crime. Long and bitter experience together with a series of commissions and investigations have underscored this need.

In any case, it seems grossly anomalous for the UNC or other critics of the Government to blame the administration for failing to deal with the crime scourge and at the same time condemn their effort to reform the Police Service to meet this frightening challenge from the criminals. A central concern of critics is the idea that the Police Service will be subject to the influence of the PM since he and the Opposition Leader jointly advise the President on the appointment of the six PMA members. In this regard we remember ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani claiming the fact that he appointed the Police Chief and had control of the force as one of the reasons for his success.
Panday's and UNC's hypocrisy is astonishing.

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