Motives and Mr Merai’s drug allegations

Invariably the deepest and darkest secrets from opaque and dysfunctional institutions like the Guyana Police Force come from within and most unexpectedly.

And so it was from the published report in the Kaieteur News which gave an account of allegations that flew fast and furiously at a meeting between the Top Cop, Mr Henry Greene and some of his senior officers.

It is worth considering the motivations of some of the protagonists in this dramatic turn of events. First, the person who provided the information to KN. For a long time it has been publicly known that members of the police force leak information for all the wrong reasons to certain media. Surely at a meeting of senior officers on a matter as incendiary as drug connections in the police force the officer in question would have exercised discretion with the intimate details of the exchanges until it was appropriate to release them. Surely the officer in question would have recognized the risk of compromising the very investigating of the charges that were levelled at the meeting by the premature release of the information. One can only assume then that there were irresistible enticements for the release of the information or that the release of the information would directly benefit the career prospects of the person who leaked it. These are the only plausible explanations as the blue wall of silence is well maintained in this force and whenever it is breached as in the case of the departing Assistant Commissioner, Mr Paul Slowe, such views are met with feverish opprobrium. This meeting in the commissioner’s office was attended by at least one mercenary whose interests are not in concord with the police force but whose efforts have nevertheless helped the press to expose the extent of allegations of drug corruption in the force.

Media all over the world salivate at the prospects of the release of information of this nature and it is then left to them to handle it responsibly. However as is increasingly evident in the burgeoning Murdoch empire scandal, the roping in of the police in cash-for-information schemes is dangerous and insidious. It rents the whole fabric of police integrity and leaves each and every member of the force open to corruptive influences. The force has no one but itself to blame for this as it has pretended not to know of this phenomenon.

Given the limited number of persons who were present at this meeting, the Police Commissioner, Mr Greene has a golden opportunity to winnow down the list of those who might have breached the rules of this meeting and to investigate to finality – supposedly one of the strengths of Eve Leary. There is, of course, the outside chance that there was an illicit eavesdropping device as was the case of former Commissioner Felix’s office and that this is the means by which the information flowed.

What about the main accuser in this matter, Mr Merai? The account of his performance which he has not sought to dispute to date is astounding. Mr Merai is the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Berbice but yet apparently evinced great interest in drug corruption at Eve Leary. One would have thought that the Assistant Commissioner’s focus would have been different given his presumed concentration on Berbice. It was, however, his reported ambush of the Top Cop at this event that was tectonic. Certainly in the preservation of the much threatened esprit de corps of the force one would have expected the Assistant Commissioner to have approached the Commissioner quietly on what he believed to have been drug corruption dangerously close to the Top Cop’s office. That would certainly have been the recommended course of action. Unless, of course, this had been done before by Mr Merai and the concerns were not addressed by the Commissioner. Even then, the manner of his reported confrontation with Mr Greene was redolent of reckless insubordination or worse. The intenseness of his complaint was even more puzzling when one considers as addressed in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek editorial that Assistant Commissioner Merai himself in 2007 had been the subject of allegations that he had extorted money from a drug dealer. He presented a defence and the matter dissolved into nothing and perhaps, ironically, it is the Top Cop who should be held responsible as it was his duty to ensure that the investigation was brought to finality. It never was and therefore the cloud over Mr Merai never dissipated and diminishes the credibility of his present complaints. Prior to that incident the Assistant Commissioner had been notorious for his work in the feared black clothes unit which was eventually disbanded.

The publicizing of the allegations has now created several seemingly insuperable problems for the police. The first is that the confidentiality of sensitive internal police discussions and retreats is in grave doubt and at the mercy of officers with impure motivations. How will the police get around this? How will they convince members of the public that the tips they provide or the testimony they may be prepared to give won’t be circulated wholesale and compromised. It is not a new problem. However, the flow from this meeting suggests a worsening of an already deep-seated malady.

Second, the credibility of Assistant Commissioner Merai and his preparedness to observe the protocols of the force are now in serious question. Eve Leary has already made it clear that several of his assertions were not grounded in fact and that he has not provided further substantiating information. So whereas Mr Merai might properly be judged by the results of his anti-crime efforts on the ground, he has now lodged himself on a very shaky limb from which he faces great difficulties dismounting. Will the Commissioner now feel a loss of confidence in his commander especially considering the region of the country he is in charge of? The conventional wisdom is that if Assistant Commissioner Merai had known that his performance at the meeting would have been exposed in full measure to the public he would not have gone as far as he eventually went.

Third, taken all together, the allegations and the leak of information are direct challenges to the credibility and authority of the Commissioner. The manner of the waylaying of Mr Greene suggested that there was a view at the meeting that he was not aware as he should be of what was happening in the force and right under his nose. Were the allegations and their leaking orchestrated to signal that the powers that be had determined that Mr Greene’s extended tenure in office would be brought to an end? How will the Commissioner set about retrieving the situation and is it possible?

That such earth-shattering allegations could be presented at a meeting presided over by the Commissioner is the surest sign of the depth and extent of the corruption that has beset the force. It however is no surprise to the public. The unyielding grip on sections of the police force that drug lord Mr Roger Khan and other of his ilk flaunted were old signs of the severity of the problem. His phantom force was peopled with ex and serving policemen and he had all of the connections in the force and the intelligence on their movements. Neither the police nor the government was perturbed about this. Neither too, apparently, was the public which had much to lose but which could not bestir itself into action.

Old folk would always remind that one shouldn’t take a firestick at night to search for what was evident in daylight. This aptly defines the current dilemma facing the police force.

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