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Editorial | Holness, Montague, Shirley must speak

Published:Thursday | August 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM

We don't know whether there is a pecking order in Andrew Holness' Cabinet, and, if so, where Horace Chang falls within it. But Dr Chang, it seems, has been ascribed the authority to speak on the behalf of the group to attempt to appropriate to the Cabinet powers that do not reside with it, usurping the portfolio responsibilities of colleagues and to expropriate the competencies of a constitutionally empowered body.

While Minister Chang's broad intent may be good, his intervention was, to say the least, untidy and could allow room for critical players, including Prime Minister Holness, the national security minister, Robert Montague, and the Gordon Shirley-chaired Police Service Commission (PSC) to wriggle them off the hook. They, too, should account.

Dr Chang is one of a slew of ministers assigned to the economic development ministry, of which Mr Holness is, officially, the portfolio minister. While the cover of this ministry almost all-encompassing, it does not reach national security, although Prime Minister is, separately, the minister of defence.




This week though, while Messrs Holness and Montague have been quiet on the matter, Dr Chang joined the chorus of denunciations of that factually limp and intellectually enfeebled attempt, by a panel established by the constabulary, to impeach the findings of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry and to exonerate police officers of all claims of incompetence and alleged acts of judicial misbehaviour during the 2010 operation to capture the political don and crime boss, Christopher Coke.

"We are not satisfied that we can accept that report," Dr Chang told Nationwide Radio. "It is not a good report and it is not reflecting well on the police force ... ." He suggested that the report will be withdrawn.

While the farce of the administrative review panel is not in question, it is not within the authority of Mr Chang or the Cabinet to withdraw the report. They can, rightly, express moral outrage over the conclusions, but the report's acceptance, or otherwise, is, first, the remit of the police chief, George Quallo, and his High Command.




Indeed, it is Mr Quallo's predecessor, Carl Williams, who commissioned the review, into what turned out to be a perverse interpretation of a recommendation by the West Kingston Commission. Mr Quallo has already said he stands by the findings. Any attempt by the political executive to now demand its withdrawal would be deemed a move beyond policy, and direct interference in the operational/management functions of the constabulary, which, by law, is within the purview of the commissioner.

Mr Quallo's embrace of the report, however, may well reflect on (un)soundness of his judgement and, ultimately, whether there is confidence in him to do the job. That, however, is a matter on which we expect to hear not only from Mr Chang, but either Messrs Montague and Holness, or both, as well as the PSC.

Further, primary among the reasons for the West Kingston Commission's recommendation for an internal review was to allow the constabulary to deal administratively with five police officers who the commissioners deemed to have been incompetent and derelict in their duties during the operation to capture Coke. Most of those officers were promoted in the aftermath of the operation. Some remain in operational command positions, contrary to recommendations of the West Kingston Commission.

The PSC, under the Constitution, has the responsibility, acting through the governor general, for appointments and discipline within the constabulary. It would be useful to know if, or how, any decision arrived at by the PSC regarding any of the named officers was impacted by evidence aired at the enquiry, or by its findings.