Commissioner Greene

Where else on the democratic face of this planet could we have had a sequence of events like the one which has been unfolding here over the last few weeks? And where else in a common law jurisdiction would a Commissioner of Police of all people seek to short-circuit advice from a Director of Public Prosecutions that he be charged with rape by having recourse to the High Court? And where else in the Western world would a Police Chief, after he had publicly admitted to gross impropriety, simply refuse to resign? And where else in the known universe would a government fail to invoke a constitutional provision to seek his dismissal if he was refusing to go of his own volition?  The popular phrase ‘only in Guyana…‘ has been invested with a whole new meaning it seems.

The long and the short of the matter is that Mr Henry Greene has lost the respect of his fellow officers, of at least one senior member of government and of the public at large. In addition, the clamour for him to go from a whole gamut of organizations will not subside as long as he still hangs on to office – and it is a question of him literally hanging on, because he can hardly occupy the post in any meaningful sense after all that has happened.

On Thursday we reported his lawyers as denying that the Commissioner intended to tender his resignation in the near future, and if that is indeed so, one can only wonder how on earth he expects to discharge his functions. In a hierarchical organization like the Guyana Police Force, the senior officers have to set an example to the juniors, and above all else have to be seen to be adhering to the law of the land which they are under oath to enforce. What will Mr Greene’s subordinates think now – leaving aside the rape allegation – after he himself confessed to improper behaviour which would have had a junior rank at the very least on serious disciplinary charges, let alone a Commissioner? And how will they view a chief of police who seeks to evade a charge being brought against him by resorting to what for this part of the world is a hardly-known legal manoeuvre? If Mr Greene has no respect for the justice system, why should they have any?

What Mr Greene has done by refusing to resign, therefore, is to undermine the very police force which he seeks to lead. He has lost his dignity and whatever reputation he had as a policeman, and he may well have to face the ill-concealed contempt of many of those who serve under him. None of the ranks will take him seriously when he lectures them on their duty as officers, and as an example himself of gross indiscipline how will he enforce discipline on those below him?  On the contrary, he has set an example of licence, and his unethical behaviour will hold more of a lesson for his subordinates than anything he might have to say which is in opposition to that; at the very least he would open himself to charges of hypocrisy.

Then there is his relationship with the public which has lost whatever little confidence in him he may or may not have enjoyed at some point in the past. In particular, as various organizations have pointed out, in the light of the Commissioner’s abuse of his office and Chief Justice (ag) Chang’s singular decision, women who have been sexually abused would be more reluctant than ever to come forward, thereby defeating the whole point of the Sexual Offences Act.  If the public in general and women in particular do not trust him, then they will not trust the Police Force of which he is a part, which as it is suffers from a problem of poor image. In any case, an unethical police force is a contradiction in terms.

Since no one really understands why the Commissioner has not resigned as yet, it can only be assumed that perversely, he believed that if he circumvented the rape charge (and several civil society organizations have called for the DPP to appeal the acting Chief Justice’s decision, which hopefully she will do) he could continue in office with no further questions asked. If so, he has seriously misread the situation. The moment he confessed to having consensual sexual relations with the woman who made the rape allegation against him − who after all, was the subject of a police investigation and went to him for a favour − he should have resigned. It would seem, however, he is not only ethically challenged, but he has a problem coming to terms with reality.

Whatever Mr Greene’s thought processes in this matter, the reluctance of the government to invoke Article 225 of the constitution when he did not resign is even more astounding. They started off in the right direction by inviting Jamaican investigators to inquire into the rape allegation, but they should not have hesitated after he made his admission of consensual sex. Only Minister Manickchand, to her credit, made public her view that Mr Greene should go; for the rest, the government seemed to drift, with not even the Minister of Home Affairs under whose portfolio the police fall, having anything to say.

No government should find it acceptable to retain a police chief who – again, the alleged rape issue apart − has been guilty of such impropriety and abuse of power, and there are unlikely to be any democratic governments in the Western world which would have wasted as much time in coming to a decision on the issue as they have done. On Thursday at a press conference at the Albion Estate President Ramotar said that in a few days Guyanese would know the outcome of Henry Greene’s position as Commissioner of Police. For his part, Dr Roger Luncheon told reporters that the government had begun deliberations under Article 225 of the constitution in relation to the ethical issue of the Commissioner’s admission that he had sexual relations with a witness in a matter under investigation.

In a few days? Begun deliberations? What on earth are they dithering for? It is true that they do not have the power to dismiss him outright; under the constitution it has to be done through a tribunal process, but the constitutional provision in question has been available to them all along, and as said above, should have been invoked the moment Mr Greene confessed to consensual relations with the witness. Could it be that they too were waiting on the outcome of Chief Justice (ag) Chang’s decision? If so, it does them no more credit than it does the Commissioner of Police, in addition to which it says nothing for their judgement. Surely they did not expect that he could be retained – or did they? As indicated above, a decision to set in motion the mechanism for his dismissal did not require that he be charged with rape or found guilty of rape.

Before the administration makes itself look any more foolish in the eyes of the world than it does already, it should come to a decision without further ado. And there really is only one decision open to it.

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