Mr Ramnarine was exercising a right and duty under Article 32 of the Constitution

Dear Editor,

There has been a call from high-up for the disciplining of senior police officer David Ramnarine for exposing certain practices in the Guyana Police Force, and for claiming that his constitutional rights trump the Force Orders. The practice he identified was in connection with the payment of $90 million from Contin-gencies Fund to feed the Police over the November 28 elections period. On the question of the constitution, Mr. Ramnarine was in fact not only exercising a right but rather carrying out a duty which Article 32 of the Constitution imposes on every citizen. And as just about everyone by now knows, the Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana and not even the Parliament can make a law that is in conflict with it.

I cannot see then how some Force Order purporting to restrict a right could abridge a duty imposed by the Consti-tution. I would therefore like to receive from the Minister of Home Affairs an informed opinion on which instrument – the Constitution or the Force Orders, or which interest – secrecy of the Police Welfare Fund or the protection of public property–his Government considers paramount.

For, as Article 32 states: “It is the joint duty of the State, the society and every citizen (emphasis mine) to combat and prevent crime and other violations of the law and to take care of and protect public property.”

The country is fortunate and grateful that circumstances forced the lone Mr. Ramnarine to exercise his constitutional duty under Article 32. It is frightening to reflect on the several others in the Police Force, some more and others less senior to him, the GDF, the ministries and departments, and the hundreds of thousands of Guyanese who daily fail in their Article 32 duty.

Whether by accident or intent, Article 32 is a Whistleblowers protection in the public service. I would like to see some enabling legislation aimed at giving effect to Article 32, and to wrong-doings in the private sector as well.

I draw attention also to a further development from the same issue. In the process of his revelation, Mr. Ramnarine implicitly exposed a weakness in the State audits to which I have been drawing public attention: that a bare statement in the Audit Report that drawings from the Contingencies Fund did not meet the criteria set out under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act was not enough. The Audit Office needs to go further and by a scientific sample, audit Contingencies Fund transactions for accuracy, authority, authenticity and completeness from what auditors call cradle to grave: in this case from the issue of the drawing right by the Minister of Finance to his timely request to the National Assembly for replenishment. The Minister of Finance has only up to the next sitting of the Assembly to seek approval.

I have noticed that the Auditor General (ag.), against a background of public concerns, has announced a special investigation into the $90 million fiasco. I should remind him that Dr. Ashni Singh’s Supplementary Appropriation for expenditure during the parliamentary break involved $5.7 Billion, of which $2.4 Billion was judgmental. I doubt that the public and the parliamentary opposition will be satisfied with another limited scope, incomplete and therefore inadequate exercise.

Yours faithfully,
Christopher Ram

Around the Web