The responsibility of the Commissioner of Police is not to ‘support the boss’

Dear Editor,

The actions by Clement Rohee functioning in the capacity as Minister of Home Affairs after the passing of a parliamentary no-confidence motion are sending ominous signals. Anyone who zealously guards his/her character would not engage in acts that undermine time-honoured principles and practices. For the Minister to be ‘comforted’ by the apparent statement of  ‘support’ issued by acting Commis-sioner of Police (CoP), Leroy Brummell, indicates a man who is out of his depth when it comes to management, since the CoP’s responsibility is not to “support [the] boss” but to implement policies consistent with operational practices.

The Police Force has no responsibility to support individuals. Its responsibility is to the principles of service and protection outlined in its operating procedures consistent with the rule of law, and which should be discharged without fear, favour or ill will.

And this goes too for Mr Brummell and the Minister, because the Force cannot be behind the Minister in whatever he does, as claimed by the acting CoP.  An infraction is an infraction regardless of who commits it, and we must call it for what it is.

Further, that the Minister sees this as giving cover to his stewardship justifies the calls for his resignation, for he clearly does not understand the distinction between the Minister and the Police Force in terms of their roles, and therefore puts the officers and the Force in an untenable situation.

And any call for the sanctioning of the acting CoP has to be looked at within the context of how this entire issue is being addressed.

Under Article 210 (4) of the Constitution the President invited the Leader of the Opposition to “engage in meaningful consultation” for the appointment of a CoP.  Mr Brummell was acting CoP at the time of this meeting and rather than agreeing on his or any other person’s suitability for the job and concluding the appointment and confirmation, the President and Leader of the Opposition agreed to the appointment of two deputy commissioners of police which was not what the meeting was intended to address.

The ambivalence of the President and Leader of the Opposition, coupled with the level of subterfuge in the society, place Mr Brummell in the situation of supporting issues and positions that run counter to the professionalism that is expected of the Force.

Whenever we start wrong, we are going to end wrong, and in this specific case both the President and Leader of the Opposition abrogated their constitutional responsibility to the Police Force and the Guyanese society.  In this instance Mr Brummell should not be blamed; he has been placed in a position where he has to sing for his supper.

Laws, rules, principles and practices cannot be sacrificed at the expense of any organization or individual’s interest and we the people must see to it. The Private Sector Commis-sion‘s (PSC) statement on the opposition’s actions in parliament which this body thinks does not constitute “decorum in keeping with the prestigious office entrusted to them by the Guyanese people” is deserving of attention.

The actions of the current parliamentarians are no different from those that preceded them.

Notably, Cheddi and Janet Jagan were the militant opposition parliamentarians of yesteryear and greatly admired for their actions, which included loud heckling, knocking down the mace and law books, and the thumping of furniture.

The Jagans’ actions were consistent with the desire to be heard and have their views respected. The same desire exists today and it must be equally respected.

The PSC has a corporate and moral responsibility to this society, and it includes ensuring the legitimate will of the people is respected, and the rights of man and the rule of law are pre-eminent.

Its legitimacy and respect across the board are hinged on this and the current leadership of the PSC need not forget that on matters of policing the body was involved in activities undermining the role of the police in the last elections, and its voice has been absent in relation to reining in the narcotics trade which undermines the economy. Professor Clive Thomas has written extensively on the underground economy and the narcotics trade, and international bodies are expressing concerns about the drugs trade which is undermining the social fabric of the society, coupled with the rampant corruption that undermines governance.

In fact, the society would appreciate it if the organization considers applying international principles as it seeks to address these issues, including the President’s abrogation of his responsibility to the people under the constitution.  The executive is equally a part of parliament and governance as much as the opposition, and must be equally held accountable.

The holistic development of this country can only be realized when we hold all to the same standards and all play by the same rules, which are outlined in universal declarations, international conventions and laws and in the Guyana Constitution.

Money and/or access to the corridors of power allow no one to be contemptuous of the struggle of the people in putting laws and systems in place to avoid the strong and mighty trampling on their rights. Taking this approach is injurious to the tenets of creating a just and modern society and even threatens the wellbeing of legitimate business and every law-abiding citizen.

And while the opposition’s effort to hold Minister Rohee accountable is noted, such efforts must be buttressed by laying the foundation where principles trump principalities.

As such it is expected that Mr Granger, as Leader of the Opposition give a fillip to the current action by delivering the requisite leadership to have the recommendations in the Disciplined Services Commission Report that was unanimously accepted in National Assembly in May 2004, made a reality.

It is further expected that Winston Felix, as former CoP and current Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, will prepare the requisite documents consistent with Article 171 (1) of the Constitution, to start the ball rolling.

It is time our elected officials understand that they have a moral and civic responsibility to the people – those who vote for them and those who don’t – in delivering and ensuring a society premised on justice and fair play.

For too long the ordinary man and woman have been taken for granted, given excuses and denied what’s rightly theirs by politicians who are abrogating their responsibility under the social contract as outlined in the constitution. Being elected to govern in the interest of the people, it is time to walk the walk.

Yours faithfully,
Lincoln Lewis

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