Former calypso monarch Duanne O’Connor has threatened to sue the State over the T&T Police Service (TTPS)’s decision to initiate disciplinary action against him for his participation in screening for last year’s Local Government Elections.
The threat was made in a letter sent to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and the Solicitor General last week.
In the correspondence, obtained by Guardian Media, O’Connor’s lawyer Renuka Rambhajan claimed that the decision taken by the TTPS in April and June was unreasonable, irregular, and improper in the circumstances.
She also contended that it breached his constitutional rights to freedom of thought and expression and the right to join political parties and to express political views.
According to Rambhajan, O’Connor, who has served as a police constable for the past 11 years, was unsuccessfully screened for the St Ann’s River South seat in the elections late last year.
In April, O’Connor received a letter from the TTPS, which required him to provide a response to the situation.
O’Connor replied by requesting information on the complaint apparently recorded against him and the person, who made it.
While he did not receive a response, he was given two memorandums accusing him of breaching the Police Service Regulations by engaging in partisanship and by publishing a personal comment on local and administrative matters without Griffith’s permission.
Rambhajan noted that the memorandums were dated April 17 and June 17, respectively, but were only served on him last week.
In the letter, Rambhajan admitted that the Police Service Act bars police officers from making public political comments and disqualifies them from membership in the Senate, House of Representatives, Tobago House of Assembly (THA) or a municipal corporation.
Rambhajan noted that if her client had been successful before the screening committee, he would have resigned before his nomination was made public.
“Having regard to the proper context of fundamental constitutional rights, it would be a disproportionate encroachment to require a police officer to resign first, before submitting nomination papers, with no guarantee that he would be selected,” Rambhajan said.
“That would lead to an absurd outcome which Parliament simply could not have intended,” she added.
Referring to the allegation that O’Connor broadcast his activity before the screening committee, she noted that the social media post attributed to him was not posted by him.
She also claimed that O’Connor only participated because he believed his screening would have been kept confidential until he was selected.
“He was assured by the PNM’s screening committee that the screening process was confidential and that only when there was a successful candidate chosen and finalised, who would be required to openly and publicly campaign for the seat, would the identity of that person be made public,” she said.
Through the proposed lawsuit, O’Connor is seeking declarations against the decision and financial compensation.
Rambhajan said that she would file the lawsuit if she does not receive a response in 14 days.
O’Connor is also being represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, and Douglas Bayley.