Commissioner Greene

In addition, it is worth mentioning that the Commissioner is in any case past retirement age, and in the past nearly three years has functioned as head of the Guyana Police Force courtesy of the former President of Guyana. Having said that, it is not as if even before this he was in a position to feel secure about his appointment. After his predecessor, Mr Winston Felix, proceeded on pre-retirement leave in 2006, Mr Greene was left in an acting position for almost two years before his confirmation on December 31, 2008. That was approximately three months before he was due to retire himself. It might be added that Mr Robert Corbin of the PNCR said at the time that he had not been consulted on the appointment, and it was, therefore, illegal since consultation is required under the constitution. However, he went on to add that he would not be bringing a legal challenge, since he had done so in the case of the Integrity Commission and that case was still to be heard.

Job insecurity – a state in which the previous administration sought to keep many of its top officials – was not the only problem which the present Commissioner had to confront; even before Mr Felix vacated his post, the United States indicated in April 2006 that it was withdrawing Mr Greene‘s diplomatic and visitor’s visas. Subsequently it was revealed that this was because he had “benefited materially from the drug trade.”

This year, the ever illuminating WikiLeaks cables provided some background to the issue, when it was revealed in a cable sent by then US Chargé d’Affaires Michael Thomas that the United States had had Mr Greene under investigation for five years, and that Mr Thomas had pointed out to then President Jagdeo and Dr Luncheon how embarrassing it would be if Mr Greene were indicted in a foreign court. According to the cable, the two Guyana Government officials agreed to reconsider appointing him, and at a meeting on July 18, 2006 Mr Jagdeo was alleged to have told Mr Thomas that if the US revoked Greene’s visa, it would give the government a basis for refusing to promote him to commissioner. The visa was revoked two days later, but that notwithstanding, Mr Greene was first given an acting appointment and then was subsequently confirmed.

Of course Mr Jagdeo in response to the WikiLeaks revelations in September this year – and even before that – robustly defended his Police Commissioner, telling the media that the US had not been willing to supply the information which would buttress its accusation against Mr Greene, and that Washington just wanted him to take action “based on [their] word.” He then went on to say that the US was trying to influence his choice; “often it’s about who gives the most information to these foreign powers,” he said, before declaring he had “faith in him [Greene].”

As for the Commissioner himself, he has always vehemently denied that he had any connections to the narcotics trade: “I want to categorically state,” he was reported as saying at the time of his visa revocation, “that I have never been involved in any way with illegal drug operations either locally or abroad, and I have never associated with any drug dealer.”

Unfortunately for both the Police Commissioner and the government, once the United States has expressed its concerns, the public will not dismiss those concerns out of hand and will not be satisfied with Mr Jagdeo’s insistence that the US complaint was all about getting someone in place who would give the mission here information. No doubt the Embassy would be quite happy to have someone in position who would oblige them in that regard, but Mr Jagdeo’s explanation would require people to believe that the US administration made up narcotics allegations against a senior Guyanese police officer and withdrew his visas to boot, all for the purpose of securing an appointment which was preferable to them. As it is, therefore, the accusations have acquired a half-life and continue to hang over Mr Greene’s head like a baleful cloud, undermining his credibility. And credibility together with the confidence of citizens (not to mention his officers), is essential for any police chief if he is to be effective.

The sting of the allegations might have been blunted had Mr Greene indeed been effective in terms of controlling crime, but that is not something he has to his credit during his more than five-year tenure as either Commissioner or acting Commissioner. The previous government‘s seeming satisfaction with his performance  is not a view which the average citizen shares. Added to this, the public perception of the police is of a force which is penetrated by corruption, an impression which Commander Steve Merai’s statements on the subject earlier this year did nothing to dispel.

And now we have the latest allegation against the Commissioner, this time from a woman claiming that she was sexually abused by him. Mr Felix told the media last week that he recalled two similar allegations in 1974 and again in 1994. The Commissioner himself has had nothing to say about the matter other than the comment that God would be his judge. It might be remarked that while Mr Greene may or may not be answerable to the Almighty at a personal level for his ‘sins,’ that does not mean he is not at the same time answerable to earthly authorities for transgressions where ‘Caesar,’ so to speak, has jurisdiction.

On Thursday, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud said that an investigation had been launched into the complaint, and that the woman concerned had already given a statement to ranks. However, as Mr Felix pointed out, Mr Greene cannot be investigated by his own ranks, while a legal source was reported as telling Stabroek News that the police cannot arrest him and neither can he be interdicted under the Police Disciplinary Act. However, said Mr Felix, “one would expect that a decision on the way forward would be taken by those above him.” In our edition yesterday we reported Mr Greene as responding that Mr Felix had an “axe to grind.” Even supposing that were true, it does not necessarily follow that the latter’s comments do not have merit independently of any animus between the two men.

Whether or not the most recent allegation of possibly criminal conduct has any basis, if Mr Greene insists on remaining in his post while a probe is being conducted it would create an untenable situation, would permanently undermine his authority, and would further injure the reputation of the GPF which he serves. A decision to stay would not be something from which he would ever recover, more especially given his chequered history, and even if he is cleared, he would still be irreparably damaged. As Mr Felix said on Thursday, “He has been interdicting ranks who have been committing similar and lesser breaches of the law, so I think he has one honourable course of action… and to do anything otherwise would be to force the hand of his superiors.” Indeed.

Quite independently of the situation in which he finds himself, however, one would have thought that given his problematic health status, Mr Greene would have come to the conclusion before this that retirement was appropriate; the job after all, is stressful as well as demanding in terms of energy resources. Now in addition, there is this new cloud hanging over him (not forgetting that the old one has not yet been quite dispelled), that for different reasons necessitates his resignation. This is all in a context where his performance as police chief could hardly be described as stellar. As it is, therefore, Mr Greene hardly needs to waste too much time on introspection; a combination of health issues and professional ethics considerations, either of which on its own could have the same outcome, together point to an inescapable conclusion.

Should Mr Greene elect to resign, he would be setting an example to his officers, sparing the police force he has served for so long further embarrassment, and giving himself a necessary breathing space. If he insists on hanging on, he could only do so for a limited period, for surely at a higher level, as Mr Felix has hinted, it will be decided that the political cost of leaving him in his post is simply too great.

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