President David Granger yesterday said that the recently-concluded Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the alleged assassination plot against him has exposed serious deficiencies and weaknesses in the Guyana Police Force that have to be corrected.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of the Presidency, Granger made it clear that the CoI was not meant to be a witch-hunt, but said that work has to be done to ensure that the police force is more professional and efficient in the execution of its duties and responsibilities.
He added that its findings point to some critical areas, which will need to be addressed as part of security sector reform.
“[The Commission] made some very strong recommendations. Even persons who have been following the day-to-day reports would have realised that there has been a significant lapse in professionalism at the high levels of the Guyana Police Force, so these are matters of concern. It has brought to light some serious deficiencies and I am very confident that the work that [British security advisor] Mr. Russell Combe is doing will point to ways in which we can correct the deficiencies. The important thing is to ensure that we get information so that we can correct fault. It is not a witch-hunt. We are trying to make the law enforcement agencies more efficient,” Granger was quoted as saying on the sidelines of the launch of the Region Four administration’s Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibition at the Ramada Georgetown Princess Hotel.
Combe is an advisor to President Granger as part of the United Kingdom’s US$4.7B Security Sector Reform Action Plan.
On Thursday, State Minister Joseph Harmon told a post-Cabinet press conference that the CoI had made recommendations that point to needed reform of the police force. “It certainly points to the need for some amount of reform. I would just wish to alert to that fact and not go too deeply into the other recommendations…,” he said, before adding that he could not provide much detail about the contents of the final report as it still has to be reviewed by Cabinet.
Harmon said he did not wish to get into details but added that the report points to certain areas which require reform and which will be the subject of some input by Combe.
The report was handed over at State House on August 31 by retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Slowe, who conducted the inquiry. His terms of reference included investigating and reviewing the full range of the actions and responses of the police force 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 force, 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 police officers in the investigation.
Another part of his mandate was reviewing all actions taken by the force 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 force’s competence to investigate matters of such a nature.
Meanwhile, Harmon also said that during a recent visit to Lethem two weeks ago, Granger announced a sweeping policy related to the security of Guyana’s borders. He said that some of the issues raised in the Slowe report were mentioned during that visit. “That has to do with…the way in which the police force is organised nationally to deal with the crime situation and the security of our borders. At that forum, the president alerted to the fact that we needed to look at how the police force is structured, how the divisional lines were drawn…and the fact that the divisions’ boundaries should reflect the actual situation with respect to our administrative regions so that the policing functions, the ranks that are posted in these areas, the seniority of those persons, can be a reflection of the reality which takes place on the ground,” he said.
He pointed out that regions 7, 8 and 9 fall within one division. “These are huge areas of not only land but human activity and so what we are looking at is to basically have a change of that where a senior police rank can be responsible for a smaller area,” he said, while noting that this will allow for more effective policing of those huge regions. He said that the current structure was put in place more than 100 years ago, when the police force was first established. He said that since then, the demographics of the country have changed as well as the way in which public life is conducted. “So we believe it is important enough now to address that issue,” he added.