Saying it was concerned about Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee’s pronouncements on ‘C’ Division Commander David Ramnarine, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has written acting Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell emphasising legal and ethical policing standards.
The GHRA’s letter to Brumell comes in the wake of a call by Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee to the acting Commissioner for Ramnarine to be disciplined under the Police (Discipline) Act over a series of public statements he made about a $90M allocation for the sustenance of policemen and women during the elections period.
Rohee on Monday declared a loss of in confidence in Ramnarine and urged Brumell to discipline him. Rohee accused Ramnarine of breaching the Guyana Police Force’s Standing Orders by making the information public. However, Ramnarine, who said he spoke out because of concern over the welfare of the ranks, argued that the Standings Orders do not supersede his fundamental right to freedom of expression.
Brumell, in a response, told Stabroek News on Thursday that “Attention is being paid to” Rohee’s call. Observers have said it is improper of the minister to demand that Brumell discipline Ramnarine. The latter’s statements have raised freedom of speech issues and whether an officer in that position should be protected for speaking out against abuses.
In a statement on Thursday, the GHRA said in its letter to Brumell it noted that it was monitoring the pronouncements on the situation. It added “of particular concern” were the recent statements in relation to the matter by the Minister, in reacting to comments in the press attributed to Ramnarine.
The GHRA letter, which was also copied to Rohee, emphasised that in relation to legal and ethical policing standards, the police management has to respect rights contained in the Guyana Constitution. It cited the following specific responsibilities:
-police officials shall at all times fulfil the duty imposed on them by law to serve and protect the community and its members against illegal acts;
-police officials shall not commit any acts of corruption themselves and should rigorously oppose such acts by others;
-police officials shall respect the human dignity of all citizens and uphold the rights of everyone equally;
-police officials who refuse unlawful superior orders shall be granted immunity;
-all police officials are to be subject to continuous and effective report and review procedures.
In addition, the GHRA said that it also enclosed with the letter copies of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by UN Member States in 1979 drawing specific attention to Article 7: “Law enforcement officials shall not commit any act of corruption. They shall also rigorously oppose all such acts”.
The human rights group said that it was prepared to be consulted on other relevant instruments to which the Guyana Government has acceded on the obligations of state parties and police officials.
Ramnarine, in a letter responding to Rohee’s criticism, said that he was fully supportive of civilian oversight of the force but noted concern over “oversight which becomes so intrusive to the extent that it manifests itself into civilian command of the force.” He added that such intrusive oversight can and does “adversely affect professionalism,” resulting in indecisiveness, ineffectiveness and inefficiency from officers. He also reminded that while the Constitution provides for civilian control of the force, the command is the province of the Commissioner under the Police Act.