This having been revealed in a lawsuit yesterday, concern was raised by heads of the Hindu and Islamic communities over the issue of religious discrimination in police promotions. Constable Darren Baptiste was promoted last month to the rank of corporal, but yesterday Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha secretary general Sat Maharaj said Paul’s recommendation demonstrates “Trinidad and Tobago is still viewed as a Christian country to the detriment of Hindus and Muslims.”
ASJA president general Yacoob Ali commented that he would only condone such a letter from commissioner Paul “if such was used as recommendation of good character.”
“Certainly not to assess one’s ability to perform as a police officer,” he added. Among a bundle of documents before Justice Prakash Moosai who heard the lawsuit in the San Fernando High Court was a letter dated March 26, 2007, from Commissioner Paul addressed to the Director of Personnel Administration.
This letter states, “I refer to the subject and your memorandum dated March 20, 2007 and advise that PC Baptiste was not assessed on his certificate in High Performance Business Writing from RBTT Roytec, but rather on his certificate in Theology from the West Indies School of Theology.” Baptiste of Sangre Grande filed a lawsuit through attorney Anand Ramlogan seeking judicial review of the failure of the Police Service Commission (PSC) to explain why it did not consider commissioner Paul’s recommendation.
In the lawsuit, Baptiste stated, “I was informed by the Commissioner of Police that I was selected for promotion and was invited to make representation to the PSC. I issued several letters to the PSC to have my marks reviewed and upgraded or increased in the hope that I would attain promotion, but to no avail. I was unfairly treated because no marks were awarded for my academic qualification which includes a certificate in professional development from Roytec.”
The lawsuit went on to state that Baptiste had five O Level passes and a certificate in Bible and Theology studies from the West Indies School of Theology.
Justice Prakash Moosai granted Baptiste leave after Ramlogan argued that Baptiste was entitled to know under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) why the PSC rejected the commissioner’s recommendation.
Ramlogan said yesterday that instead of challenging the lawsuit, the Solicitor General sent him (Ramlogan) a letter on March 14, informing him that by letter dated March 13, the PSC promoted Baptiste to the rank of corporal retroactive May 11, 2006.
Saying such a promotion on that criterion was discriminatory of Hindus and Muslims, Maharaj questioned whether the PSC would accept similar recommendations from the Maha Sabha on behalf of police officers who are Hindus and seeking promotion. “This raises the whole question whether the PSC will accept recommendations from Hindus and Muslims who are trained in their respective religions. In fact, their training is usually for several years abroad. It is significant to mention here that UWI offers a course in Christian Theology, but not in Hinduism or Islam,” Maharaj said.
TT Police Welfare Association president Emrol Bruce said the commissioner’s move was indeed controversial. “But I will have to discuss the matter with the executive rather than give my personal views on it,” he added.