State Minister Joseph Harmon yesterday reiterated that President David Granger’s directive to the Police Service Commission to halt its consideration of promotions was intended to prevent damage to the image of the Guyana Police Force but he could not say under what authority the head of state acted.
Harmon told a post-Cabinet press conference that the reports reaching the president indicated that the entire super structure of the police force was likely to be affected by some action which was taking place and in the interest of the public he thought it best to ask the commission to put a temporary hold on promotions until such time that he is able to clarify the pending issues.
“The security of the state is the responsibility of the government and the president is the person who is ultimately responsible and anything which seeks to damage the fabric of our security forces is a matter which His Excellency takes very seriously,” he stressed, while adding that such damage will affect the security of the citizenry.
“If it has to do with the police… the GDF… the fire service or any of these forces which have a direct impact on the security of the state of the defence of our sovereignty, I want to give this assurance: that this is a matter which is taken very seriously and the president does not act capriciously as some persons want to feel that okay he didn’t follow the law and this is unconstitutional. The president acts after clear and deliberate consultations with the heads of his services,” he also said.
He had been asked to identify the legal basis for the directive.
Harmon, through a letter, dated July 26, 2017, had informed Marvalyn Stephens, the Secretary of the Police Service Commission that “His Excellency, President David Granger has directed that there be no consideration of promotions for members of the Guyana Police Force by the Police Service Commission until further notice.”
The president’s directive has since been criticised as an attempt to interfere in the functioning of the body, which Article 226(1) of the Constitution says “shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority” in the exercise of its functions.
A court action has been filed challenging Granger’s interference and Stabroek News was informed that the commission will be meeting on Monday to discuss the matter.
Harmon emphasised yesterday that government did not interfere in the process. “The president has made that very clear,” he said, while adding that the court will determine whether there is any basis in law for the recently filed legal challenge.
He said he would like to hear arguments that the “the president of a country, having received information …by a system of reports coming to him which says there is some action which is likely to take place that would harm or cause injury to the security fabric of this country, that he cannot take any action about it.”
On Wednesday, a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency reported the president as saying that there have been many legitimate complaints by members of the commission and aggrieved police officers about abuse and malpractice in the police force and it is for this reason that he had asked for the promotion of police officers to be delayed.
“We are investigating the complaints, which have been made to us and we have asked the Police Service Commission to simply delay so that we can answer those queries and once those queries are satisfactorily answered we will proceed. It’s no intention on my part to impede the work of the Commission,” the president said.
Granger added that his primary focus is the prevention of any further damage to the security sector. He said that his government cannot and will not ignore the complaints and evidence of injustices, which may have taken place.
Observers note that the President’s action calls into question the judgement of Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud, who made the promotion recommendations.
Although Granger’s directive to halt its consideration of promotions was deemed unconstitutional, Chairman of the commission Omesh Satyanand on Tuesday said that some members of the body have decided to comply.
Many have questioned the timing of the president’s instruction, which coincides with an ongoing inquiry into the police force’s handling of an investigation into an alleged assassination plot against him. Testimony at public hearings for the inquiry has placed several senior ranks, including Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken and Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum, under scrutiny for their handling of the case. It has also exposed a rift between Persaud and his second in command, Assistant Commissioner David Ramnarine. Persaud has recommended that Hicken be promoted to the rank of Deputy Commissioner and that Blanhum be elevated to the rank of Assistant Commissioner. Ramnarine, who is the most senior rank after Persaud, was not included on the list.