Defending his decision to instruct Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud to fire one of the policemen who tortured a 15-year-old boy at the Leonora Police Station in 2009, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan says he also expects the Police Service Commission (PSC) to dismiss the second cop implicated, who it promoted earlier this year.
Ramjattan yesterday told Stabroek News that Corporal Mohanram Dolai has since been dismissed from the force and that he was in the middle of preparing a letter to send to the secretary of the PSC arguing the case why this administration would not want the commission to continue the retention much less the promotion of Inspector Narine Lall. He said that Persaud, who had last year defended the promotion of the men and who would have preferred Dolai and recommended Narine’s, has since agreed with his arguments that a man of the character of Dolai should not be a member of the force.
“He (Lall) should be forthwith sacked just like the other corporal,” the minister said, pointing out that while he cannot direct the commission he is strongly suggesting to them that “they get their act together.”
“It would be the shame of all the police service commissions…they would be made the laughing stock of the Caribbean when this is brought out and all I am asking is for justice to be done for the remedying of that situation by the Police Service Commission, for them to get rid of that inspector,” the minister said.
Asked what would be the next course of action should the PSC not adhere to the recommendation, the minister said, “I might very well ask that all of them tender their resignation….”
Ramjattan also revealed that Lall is said to be a relative of a former government minister, which could have influenced his being promoted.
“Because when [name of the minister] ordered the man [Narine] promoted he couldn’t knock off Dolai, so Dolai had to be promoted from corporal to sergeant too,” the minister contended.
The minister pointed out that the force’s Office of Professional Responsi-bility (OPR) had also pronounced on the matter and found the two policemen culpable. Justice Roxane George, the minister noted, had also found that the two officers violated the constitution, which says no one should have treatment meted out to them that is inhumane, degrading and torturous.
The 2009 torture case drew international condemnation and an investigation by the police’s OPR had found that the two policemen injured and tortured the teen boy. The Ministry of Home Affairs had also publicly acknowledged that the teen had been tortured and expressed regret.
“If it is anybody violating the constitution, it is not Ramjattan. I am upholding the constitution that I had taken an oath and sworn to uphold. It is the Police Service Commission that is not upholding the oath that they took,” the minister, who is also a lawyer by profession, said.
Former Attorney-General Anil Nandlall has since condemned the move by the minister, stating that he was in no way speaking in defence of the two officers but rather in defence of the constitution, the principles of natural justice and the rule of law.
“Mr Ramjattan had no authority to issue that type of direction to the police commissioner or the Police Service Commission. The Police Commissioner under the Police Act has command and superintendence over the management and day-to-day operations of the Guyana Police Force. The minister has a power to issue general policy guidelines only,” the former attorney-general under the PPP/C administration said yesterday.
According to him, the same position pertains to the PSC. He noted that Article 226 of the constitution states, “In the exercise of its functions a commission shall not be the subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”
He said while Ramjattan seeks to justify his unlawful interference by positing that he is doing what justice dictates, he should know that the delivery of justice is a function of the judiciary and even the judiciary is bound by law and due process. He posited that Dolai should have been given a hearing before his dismissal instead of being sacked by the commissioner based on the minister’s directive.
However, Ramjattan, in response, said the initial condemnation must be directed to Nandlall as he allowed the retention of persons who burnt the genitals of a child and in the face of the condemnation of a High Court judge.
“Any decent Attorney General would have immediately ensured the sacking of those two police officers. So it is not him to condemn me, it is today for the public to condemn him”, the minister said.
He said he has since learnt that it is the past administration which directed then Commis-sioner of Police Henry Greene not to dismiss the two officers. The administration then last year indicated that the officers should be promoted.
Lall and Dolai were found liable in the torture of the 15-year-old boy after they poured methylated spirits on his genitals and set him alight while he was in custody at the Leonora Police Station as part of a murder investigation. After the collapse of the criminal case against them– owing to the failure of the teen and other witnesses to appear to testify–the duo was reinstated in the force. In January, Stabroek News reported that the two men were promoted. Persaud who directly promoted Dolai. After the promotions were reported on by Stabroek News, both the PSC and Persaud defended the promotions, saying that persons ought not to be punished indefinitely.
Apart from setting the genitals of the teenaged boy alight, Lall had an “unblemished record,” members of the PSC had told reporters in defending the promotion of the cop. “We should not hold something against someone because they would have committed something wrong…even though you have served the time for it and I think the public should understand that. From our record, he has been an outstanding policeman for over two decades and we have taken that into consideration,” chairman of the PSC Omesh Satyanand had said.
In a civil action, Justice George found the ranks liable and, after describing the case as constituting torture, awarded the teenager $6.5 million, which the State eventually paid. Ramjattan had represented the boy in that matter.
Meanwhile, asked about the transfers of senior police officers that were being effected by Commissioner Persaud and which President David Granger had asked be put on hold until the new minister was sworn in, Ramjattan said he has made his input and he asked for the rationale of the commissioner and he “has provided extremely good rationale.”
“I thought it was more or less professional motivation rather than anything suspicious. I have spoken to other senior deputy commissioners, the whole gamut literally and to a number of persons knowledgeable in matters of defence and I have made up my mind as to what I am doing,” the minister said.
However, he declined to state his decision publicly until the return of Commissioner Persaud from overseas.
“The convention is that the Ministry of Public Security have an input and a very big input too especially when dealing with such senior transfers and he has accommodated the President by staying his hand…” the minister said.
Days after President Granger was sworn in, Commissioner Persaud had sought to make several high level transfers in the force, which included that of Crime Chief Leslie James, who was reportedly shifted to the office of the Commissioner of Police, where he was said to be working on a special project.