Police commission to continue to comply with promotions directive

– Chairman

Though the life of the Police Service Commission (PSC) will come to an end in a few weeks, Chairman Omesh Satyanand has said that it will continue to comply with the president’s directive to halt the consideration of promotions.

“Like I said, we have sat and the directive…you heard the president say he ask for a delay and the commission members agreed that they [will] hold off on the promotion,” Satyanand told Stabroek News when contacted.

He made it clear that there hasn’t been any change in this position, while reminding that the matter is now engaging the attention of the court.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon, through a letter, dated July 26, 2017, had informed Marvalyn Stephens, the Secretary of the PSC, that “His Excellency, President David Granger has directed that there be no consideration of promotions for members of the Guyana Police Force by the PSC until further notice.”

It was the Office of the Leader of the Opposition that highlighted the issue and released a copy of the letter to the media.

Satyanand told Stabroek News last week Monday that although the directive is unconstitutional, some members of the PSC have decided to comply.

“It was put on hold until further notice but it is unconstitutional,” Satyanand said after he was asked whether the president has the authority to issue such a directive and the commission’s intended course of action. He explained that because of the letter containing the directive, “some of members have decided to put it on hold….”

He stated that based on the contents of Article 226 of the Constitution, the directive is unconstitutional but some members complied with it since it was the president who had given the directive.

Article 226 (1) states, “save as otherwise provided in this Constitution, in the exercise of its functions under this Constitution, a Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”

According to Article 226 (3), “Any question for decision by a Commission shall be determined by a majority of the votes of the members of the Commission present and voting at a meeting of the Commission at which a quorum is present, and if on any question the votes are equally divided, the Chairman or other member presiding shall have a casting vote in addition to his original vote….”

Satyanand, Lloyd Smith, Harold Martin, Keith John and then Chairman of the Public Service Commission Carvil Duncan were sworn into office by the then president Donald Ramotar. They were slated to serve for a period of three years. However in 2016, President David Granger suspended Duncan from office. Trade unionist Patrick Yarde was subsequently sworn in to act in Duncan’s place and this automatically made him a member of the PSC.

Last 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 promotions 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.

Harmon subsequently said that the president’s directive was intended to prevent damage to the image of the Guyana Police Force.

He, however, could not say under what authority the head of state acted.

Harmon told a post-Cabinet press conference last Friday 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.

He repeatedly said that the president is duty-bound to protect the state and “anything which seeks to damage the fabric of our security forces is a matter which His Excellency takes very seriously.”  He made it clear that government did not interfere in the process, adding that the court will determine whether there is any basis in law for the legal challenge which was filed by former Attorney General and PPP Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall.

Observers have noted that the president’s action calls into question the judgement of Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud, who made the promotion recommendations. Persaud and other senior members of the force have recently faced scrutiny for their handling of an investigation into an alleged assassination plot against the president.

Testimony at public hearings for the inquiry into the force’s handling of the probe has also exposed a rift between Persaud and his second-in-command, Assistant Commissioner David Ramnarine. Ramnarine was not recommended for promotion.

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