Human Services Minister Jennifer Webster yesterday declined to comment on embattled Police Commis-sioner Henry Greene’s conduct but stressed that persons holding public office should act in a proper manner—even as AFC MP Khemraj Ramjattan called for an appeal of the court’s decision to dismiss the advice to charge him with rape.
Greene, who has been accused of raping a woman who had gone to him for assistance in an ongoing case, stated in an affidavit as part of his action to block the institution of a charge that he had consensual sex with her. As a result, continuing calls for him to go also cite him for misconduct.
Webster, however, steered clear of saying how she felt the matter ought to be handled when approached during a parliamentary break yesterday.
“As a woman, I would say that women should be respected and… we must all have pride in ourselves. We should, in our society, remember that women are the backbone of any society and in Guyana we have for a long time advocated for women’s rights and we have advocated for many things pertaining to our women,” she said, when asked about her position on the Greene case.
“In Guyana, what we see is a breakdown in moral values and standards and many persons are not behaving in an ethical and professional manner.
I think it is important that persons who hold public office act and behave in a certain way.
That is my personal opinion,” she added, when asked about Greene’s conduct.
Webster later said that she did not want to go on record saying what fate the ‘Top Cop’ should face “because I know that he is a commissioned officer and the whole issue will have to be dealt with at a higher level because he is a commissioned officer.”
Webster’s predecessor, Priya Manickchand, told this newspaper last week that she believes that Greene should leave office in light of his improper behaviour in a case that has put him on the brink of a rape charge. Manickchand, who is now the Education Minister, said, “From his own admission, he acted most improperly and in this instance he was discovered, so he should leave willingly.
I am not sure that he can do very much hereafter to enjoy the confidence of people generally and women in particular and his actions may have been a bad example for his juniors.” Manickchand, who piloted the reform of the Sexual Offences Act during the last Parliament, is the only senior government official who has called for Greene to go.
Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang quashed the advice by Director of Public Prosecu-tions, Shalimar Ali-Hack to charge Greene with rape, saying among other things that it was irrational and not likely to secure a conviction. Since his ruling, the Chief Justice has come under unremitting criticism by rights organisations that have called for an appeal.
However, on Wednesday, Attorney General Anil Nandlall advised the DPP that there is currently no enforced provision allowing an appeal in criminal matters. He did, however, also advise that she has a right to seek a second opinion and different legal representation if she wishes, leaving room for her to pursue the appeal. Up to press time last evening, it was unclear how the DPP would proceed.
Meanwhile, Ramjattan, who is also Chairman of the AFC, told this newspaper in an invited comment yesterday that the case should be re-argued at the level of Court of Appeal and if the ruling is not favourable then the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the next available option. “Let the CCJ then also do what would be regarded as a comprehensive scrutiny of those two cases that the AG is saying that blocks an appeal. I would like a CCJ ruling on this point,” he said.
“From what I have seen in the newspaper, that it is a case or matter that is criminal in nature, I believe that that has to mean that it had to be a charge in the court presently existing before you can appeal it. Not when there is no charge like in the case with this case,” he added.
Ramjattan noted that the charge had been blocked by the Chief Justice and “it is my legal opinion that… it should be appealed to be totally settled.” He said that the entire case should be reviewed, including the cases Nandlall cited in his advice to the DPP.
APNU MP Volda Lawrence said that she was both disappointed and surprised at Nandlall’s advice to the DPP. She noted that one would expect that the DPP, who should “have a wide knowledge of the laws of Guyana, would understand fully the procedures to deal with all of these issues.”
Lawrence noted that she is fully aware that the issue at hand is a very technical one and one has to ensure that it can stand up in court. “I felt disappointed in the first instance when the Chief Justice said that the matter was not properly done… It makes me wonder whether we need to have the DPP perhaps go somewhere and have a course,” she said, noting that some of the details in the case are too glaring to be ignored.
She was firm that the DPP should seek a second opinion “because something must be done and I hope that the government recognises that there [is] a large percentage of people in this country, men and women, who have absolutely no confidence in this man as the Commissioner and that the main thing is to remove him.”
She further questioned who would respect Greene in light of unethical behaviour, adding that a situation may now exist where the female ranks under his command will become uncomfortable around him. “It scares me to know that this man would be sitting at the helm and these women are subjected to him,” Lawrence noted, adding that APNU would discuss the issue over the weekend and will make a decision on the way forward.
Red Thread and several of its supporters yesterday held a protest in front of the High Court, where human rights activist Karen De Souza expressed disappointment at Nandlall’s advice to the DPP.
De Souza said that their continued presence outside the High Court will depends on a number of things. “We personally intend to keep our attention on Mr Greene and the total failure of the president to stand up and defend women in the face of this objectionable challenge,” she explained.
She also noted that she had previously not commented on the legality of the CJ’s judgment. “I have a major problem with his judgment in so far as whether or not it was necessary to examine in detail the statement of the victimised woman and to characterise her as unreliable. That’s Red Thread’s position on the judgment,” she said, adding that neither she nor the other members of the organisation understands the legal arguments about the case being made. She noted too that another issue is that it seems that the judgment raises questions about what happens in future situation where persons have to be charged with rape, bringing the whole issue of the Sexual Offences Act to the fore.