The Trinidad Guardian / Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Deodat Dulalchan is again considering his legal options, as the Government appears to have reversed its position on revoking a decision by the Commissioner of State Lands to grant him a licence to occupy a parcel of State land in central Trinidad.
In a letter sent to Dulalchan’s lawyer Kiel Taklalsingh last Tuesday, the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs claimed the decision was in fact never revoked by the Government.
The letter was in response to several queries made by Dulalchan’s legal team over an investigation by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries into him acquiring use of the agricultural land at Chatoorie Street Extension, Felicity.
The Government’s apparent new position is bitter-sweet for Dulalchan, however, as it does not mean that he was given automatic approval to continue to occupy the land.
While State attorney Zelica Haynes-Soo Hon noted that Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Minister Clarence Rambharat had no intention of revoking the decision, she pointed out that the licence granted was conditional and not irrevocable.
“Please be advised that the Commissioner of State Lands granted permission to your client to enter the said lands subject to Cabinet’s consideration as to whether it will approve of a State Agriculture Lease in favour of your client,” Haynes-Soo Hon said.
The letter did not reveal whether the issue had been considered by Cabinet nor did it give a time frame for such.
As part of the letter, Haynes-Soo Hon informed Taklalsingh that his request for disclosure of the preliminary investigative report on the matter, which was sent to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in February, was denied. She claimed that the document was exempt under the Freedom of Information Act as it is a report between high office holders on sensitive issues, contains confidential information and because the investigation is still ongoing.
In a brief telephone interview yesterday evening, Dulalchan refused to comment on the issue as he claimed that he had not seen the letter.
“I suspect that they would have sent a copy to my lawyer. My lawyer has not communicated with me so I would not like to make any comment until I see something in black and white,” Dulalchan said.
The issue shot into national limelight when allegations of land grabbing against Dulalchan were raised by four farmers, who claimed they were displaced by the top cop before he was granted permission to occupy the land last year.
Three public servants – permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Angela Siew, Commissioner of State Lands Paula Drakes and her deputy Bhanmati Seecharan – were suspended as the allegation was being investigated. They have since been reinstated after the probe was completed.
The allegations were among a handful raised against Dulalchan after it was revealed he was the Police Service Commission (PSC)’s top pick for the post of Commissioner of Police. Dulalchan reportedly only applied for the post of DCP but was considered for the CoP post nonetheless.
On June 6, Parliament rejected the nomination after it questioned the recruitment and assessment process used by the PSC.
Ironically, on the same day Haynes-Soo Hon sought to clarify the land grabbing investigation, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) also issued a letter in which it responded to questions over its investigation into separate allegations against Dulalchan.
In its letter, head of legal counsel in the PCA’s Compliance and Complaints Unit, Lisa-Marie Robertson, noted that the complaint was made in 2011 and the investigation was concluded in 2017. Robertson denied allegations by Dulalchan’s attorneys that he was not informed of the allegation and given an opportunity to be heard, as she pointed out that he responded to it in September last year.
Responding to their requests for information on the complaint, Robertson said there was documentary evidence that was corroborated by a witness. She also questioned whether there was an internal investigation into whether the complaint was fabricated as alleged by Dulalchan.
“In light of this, kindly indicate what, if any, steps were taken by your client or any other officer to investigate this matter including, but not limited to, whether the officer responsible for this alleged fabrication or prevarication was the subject of a charge or of disciplinary action following this alleged wrongdoing. Our searches reveal that to date, this was not done,” Robertson said, as she invited Dulalchan to make a complaint over the issue to the PCA.
Robertson also noted that Dulalchan was not affected by the PCA’s recommendation, as it merely advised that the PSC bring disciplinary charges against him.
“Kindly therefore indicate how your client has been adversely affected by the PCA’s actions in his matter, particularly, as the PSC, to which the recommendation for consideration was made, took a decision in your client’s favour,” she said.
Dulalchan is also being represented by Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally and Stefan Ramkissoon.