Attorney General Dale Marshall yesterday sought to explain Government’s decision to contravene Barbados’ laws with the appointment of a second Deputy Commissioner of Police. Perhaps it might have been more prudent for him simply to apologize to the Barbadian public, promise there would be no further indiscretions and say nothing more. But Tuesday’s attempt at verbal gymnastics has now left him with the laughable task of explaining an explanation.
We do not intend to belabour this issue or engage in any “tit-for-tat”. But our politicians should not seek to insult the intelligence of the populace through empty words and verbal sleight of hand. In Mr Marshall’s penned prattle he set up the premise of Deputy Commissioner Oral William’s suitability for the position and defended the senior officer’s appointment. But no one is questioning or has queried Mr Williams’ suitability for any post in the country, whether it be that of Deputy Commissioner, Commissioner, consultant or even as a second Attorney General. The argument has never been about personalities, the issue has been Government’s sneakiness and its willingness to breach Barbados’ laws and justify its actions with piffle such as was presented yesterday as an excuse.
In the closest utterance that resembled an apology to Barbadians, Mr Marshall said it was “regretted that the required amendment did not take place [to the Police Act] in advance of Mr Williams’ appointment. But having tendered Government’s regret, Mr Marshall made poppycock of basically everything he told Barbadians with one startling and damning admission. From his own mouth or pen, he admitted that the second post of Deputy Commissioner was created on May 9, 2019. Yes, May 9, 2019. It would have been interesting if his statement had demonstrated how the post was created. The only manner in which a second post of Deputy Commissioner of Police ought to have been created was through an amendment to the Police Act in Parliament. So exactly how did Government “create” the post?
But this seeming audition for a part in a political sitcom did not stop there. Mr Marshall then indicated to Barbadians that “once the strictures of COVID-19 allow us the space to resume sittings of Parliament, the necessary amendment will be made to the Police Act to give full effect” to Government’s decision to duplicate the rank of Deputy Commissioner. But Mr Marshall cannot blame COVID-19 or use the pandemic for the disregard of Barbados’ laws when he admitted that his administration had made this decision since May 9, 2019. To the best of our knowledge and that likely of more than 270 000 people on this island, there was no coronavirus pandemic in May 2019. Indeed, we are one week away from the first anniversary of Mr Williams’ appointment and we wonder if this breach would have seen the light of day without the alertness and intervention of Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn.
What Mr Marshall did not state yesterday was whether the increase in salary and allowances that the unlawful promotion would have attracted would be refunded to the Treasury on behalf of Barbadian taxpayers. What magic allowed salaries and allowances to be paid through Government’s smart stream for a post that by law didn’t exist? We find it reprehensible that last year while Government was cutting the pensions of the elderly and retirees to $50 a month in some cases, it was simultaneously facilitating this unlawful promotion. Will it be possible for Barbados’ Auditor General in his next annual report to address the whereabouts of state funds that had no legal basis for being disbursed?
Mr Marshall has attempted to link the appointment of two Deputy Commissioners to the strategy for fighting crime. But we believe most Barbadians would have wanted him to address the possibility of employing more police officers on the ground in our urban and rural communities. The war on crime will primarily be won on the streets, not in air-conditioned offices. One wonders how difficult the offices of assistant commissioners, senior superintendents and superintendents have found it dealing with administrative and human resources matters now to be undertaken by Mr Williams. The Royal Barbados Police Force has a record of tremendous achievements. But a glance across the global landscape will show that police forces and by extension, citizens suffer when there are political meddling and curious interventions in the functioning of law enforcement agencies. The police force is not Mr Marshall or Government’s fiefdom that a post can be created specifically for one individual. Gazetted officers are treated as public servants and advertising the position of Deputy Commissioner in a competitive environment internally would be in keeping with the Public Service Act.
We support Mr Marshall fully in his efforts to assist the police in the fight against criminal elements. They must be rooted out wherever they are and the police must be given the tools, manpower and incentives to pursue those who would cause disruption in the social fabric of the island. Perhaps, Mr Marshall could help the police force further by ensuring that the optics in Barbados are conducive to criminals appreciating that Government and law enforcement is on the same page. We cannot have known or convicted criminals brandishing political invitations at official occasions such as the opening of Parliament on a Tuesday and then the police pursuing them on Wednesday.