Findings of plot inquiry could impact police promotions

- Granger

President David Granger (second from left) addressing members of the media after receiving the Report as Head of the Commission, Paul Slowe (left) and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon look on. (Ministry of the Presidency photo)

The final report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) set up to investigate the alleged plot to assassinate the president and the police force’s handling of the probe was yesterday handed over to President David Granger, who signalled that its findings could potentially have a bearing on the delayed police promotions.

“I think it is understandable on the part of the senior officers of the Guyana Police Force that once something is being investigated there should be an administrative delay until the findings are published,” he said, moments after the report was handed over by retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Slowe at State House.

Though he maintained that the two issues were separate, he said it was possible that based on the interpretation of what the Slowe Commission has reported, there may be other factors to be considered. “…But it will be premature of me to make any comments on that because I haven’t read the report as yet,” he added, while admitting that it may take some time before the promotions are sorted out.

The Police Service Commission (PSC) has not proceeded with reviewing the list of recommended promotions after a controversial directive from Granger. The president’s directive is being challenged in court.

Based on the testimony during the inquiry, it was clear that those in the police force’s hierarchy have a fractious relationship and there were several accusations of impropriety.

Granger emphasised that other “credible” information was received and he resultantly sought a delay of the promotions review to await the outcomes of the complaints against the senior officers and other persons who are interested “before we came to a conclusion about those promotions.”

Previously, Granger had explained 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,” he previously said.

Granger had also noted then that his primary focus was the prevention of any further damage to the security sector, while noting that his government could not and would not ignore the complaints and evidence of injustices, which may have taken place.

‘Unacceptable’

Asked yesterday if he was surprised by some of the details that emerged during the inquiry, he responded, “I have not come to any conclusion. I have not judged the issue. I feel that newspaper reports sometimes might not be exactly what the commission would report, so I will make a judgement after I have read the commission’s report.”

Granger did, however, point out that he thought it was “unacceptable” to come to conclusions about the alleged plot before the completion of the investigation. “I think it is completely unacceptable for any public official to deem the allegation or the intention of the plot to assassinate the president of any country as being inherently incredible …that a person who [was] appointed to conduct an investigation, before completing the investigation to come to such conclusions,” he remarked.

Granger’s statement appeared to be a reference to Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum’s testimony, in which he had called the allegations of the assassination plot “inherently incredible.”

Blanhum was responding to the question of how he viewed the allegations made by Andriff Gillard, who claimed he was offered $7 million by his neighbour, Nizam Khan, to carry out the assassination.

“I would say with the greatest amount of respect, it is my humble opinion that the allegation made by Gillard against Khan is inherently incredible,” Blanhum had stated.

Blanhum had also said that his interpretation of the police force’s legal advisor’s advice that the evidence was tenuous indicated that it was “flimsy” and had “no bearing.”

Asked whether he feared for his safety at any point, Granger said, “I am fearful for the Office of the Presidency, my personal safety…I think that the Office of the President is one that should enjoy the protection of the security services and any reports of threats or risks to the president’s life or the immediate relatives of the president, such as the First Lady or the president’s children deserves to be properly and thoroughly investigated. It is not a question of fear. I think it is good practice to ensure that the president is safe and if there is a threat to that safety it should be investigated.”

Minister of State Joseph Harmon, moments before the report was handed over, said that any report of an attempt to assassinate a sitting president is no laughing matter. He said that some persons who are in public life would want to believe that this is a matter where the officers could have just been called in and given a scolding. “This is a very serious matter and the matter was taken very seriously by the administration,” he said.

Meanwhile, in accepting the report from Slowe, Granger said that despite the criticism by uninformed sources, the commission should be lauded since he thought “they kept on, they stuck to their task.”

The report will be made public after it is submitted to Cabinet.

Slowe, in brief comments, said that the inquiry was very exhaustive. He noted that in keeping with the terms of reference, he had to summon witnesses and subpoena documents to ensure that the terms of reference were fully answered.

His terms of reference also included investigating and reviewing the full range of the actions and responses of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to the reports of the alleged plot and the extent to which such actions were conducted or executed with due diligence.

Slowe was also asked to determine whether any person, and, in particular, officers of the GPF, had information before and after the reports were made of the alleged assassination plot and whether that information was communicated to any superior authority; and report on what official action was taken on information received and if there was due diligence by GPF officers in the investigation.

Another part of his mandate was reviewing all actions taken by the GPF and examining whether there was “failure, neglect or omission to thoroughly and properly investigate” and determine whether this was intentional. He was to also determine the “blameworthiness for failure or neglect of officers or persons involved in the investigation” and recommend action to be taken against anyone found culpable, as well as to recommend steps that can be taken to prevent a recurrence.

Slowe was also tasked with identifying systemic issues, if any, with the GPF’s competence to investigate matters of such a nature.

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