The life of several service commissions, including those pertaining to the police force and public servants, expired at the end of last month, according to Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who said on Thursday that the process to select new members will be activated.
Responding to questions during a post-cabinet press briefing, Harmon said that there is a process by which the membership of these commissions are selected.
“We have actually put in place the arrangements to facilitate that process. It requires of course …there are some nominees to be made by government and there are others which have to come through the parliamentary select process so that membership on these commissions are dealt with in accordance with our constitution,” he said.
The Police Service Commission (PSC) made headlines recently after it was revealed that a directive was issued in the name of President David Granger to the Commission for a hold to be placed on its review of police promotions for this year. Critics have said this constituted gross interference by the government with a constitutional body.
A court challenge has since been mounted against the directive, which was given during a Commission of Inquiry into an alleged plot to assassinate Granger. Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud and other senior members of the force recently faced scrutiny over their handling of the probe into the alleged assassination plot against the president. Testimony during the public hearings for the inquiry had exposed a rift between Persaud and his second-in-command, Assistant Commissioner David Ramnarine. Ramnarine was not recommended for promotion. During the CoI hearings, Ramnarine’s testimony was that the police had not done a good job investigating.
Observers have noted that the president’s action calls into question the judgement of Persaud, who made the promotion recommendations.
Granger has since said that the directive to the Commission was dispatched because of complaints about the police.
A statement from the Ministry of the Presidency reported the President as saying that there have been many legitimate complaints by members of the PSC and aggrieved police officers of abuse and malpractice in the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and it is for this reason that he has 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.
Observers have noted that the Ministry of the Presidency isn’t tasked with investigating complaints by policemen and there are several bodies internal and external to the police which could have handled these. With the expiration of the life of the PSC, observers note that that the government will be able to compose a PSC to its liking and then have the matter of promotions addressed. A similar strategy was employed by the Granger administration in relation to the Judicial Service Commission.
It was the Office of the Leader of the Opposition that highlighted the issue and released a copy of Harmon’s letter to the PSC. The Chairman of the PSC Omesh Satyanand had told Stabroek News that although the directive was unconstitutional based on the contents of Article 226 of the Constitution, 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.”