Government’s implementation of recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the alleged plot to assassinate President David Granger will be made to ensure that the Guyana Police Force’s (GPF) overall “structure” is sound, says Minister of State Joseph Harmon.
This, he said, means that decisions will in no way be biased or target specified officers but will be designed to achieve objectives that align with the APNU+AFC administration’s vision for a protected and secure Guyana.
“The Police Service Commission does not deal with structures. It deals with the promotion, discipline and so on for ranks of a certain level…it is for the government to determine how the police force should be structured going forward,” Harmon said.
Reports on the recommendations of the controversial COI suggest that they call for action against several senior members of the police force despite the fact that the original allegation of an assassination plot appeared to have no credibility.
The government’s recent directive to the Police Service Commission (PSC) has also led critics to charge that the government will use the COI findings to thwart the advancement of several senior policemen.
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has warned that government should understand the separation of powers and the constitutional requirements that are in place to guide promotions and discipline of the GPF. He says that any move by government to direct how and which officers should be positioned and disciplined violates the country’s law.
Nandlall said that the country needs to pay keen attention to how government intends to implement the recommendations of the COI since the police force is covered by the PSC.
“The Government has a serious hurdle to overcome when it decides to give effect to the recommendations of the COI. That hurdle is the Constitution; it will always be a hurdle to the authoritarians. The Constitution is the supreme law.
And it is the Constitution which establishes the relevant institutions and charges them, exclusively, with the responsibility of exercising disciplinary jurisdiction over police officers. So, it is the Police Service Commission that has the exclusive responsibility of disciplining police officers from the rank of inspector and above, except the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police,” Nandlall told Stabroek News in an interview.
“It is common knowledge that the Police Service Commission is independent and must not be subjected to the direction or influence of any other authority or body. Therefore, the PSC cannot be influenced or directed by the recommendations of the COI neither can anyone direct them to act in accordance with those recommendations,” he added.
And as for reported recommendations that speak to the disciplining of the Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud, Nandall says that under the country’s laws Commissioners of Police have even stronger constitutional insulation. “The Police Commissioner enjoys security of tenure similar to that of a High Court Judge. In order to discipline the Commissioner of Police, a long line of Constitutional processes have to be triggered; a special tribunal has to be established to do so. Again, that tribunal is independent and if one is established, it ought not to be lawfully influenced by the COI’s recommendations,” he stated.
Following the handing over of the final report of the CoI that was set up to investigate the alleged plot to assassinate the president and the police force’s handling of the probe, Granger signalled that its findings could potentially have a bearing on the delayed police promotions.
After the report was handed over by retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Slowe, who had conducted the inquiry, Granger had said that he believed it is “understandable” that once something is being investigated there should be an administrative delay until the findings are published.
And though he maintained that the two issues were separate, he said it was possible, that based on the interpretation of what the COI had reported, there may be other factors to be considered.
Harmon said that Cabinet is yet to look at the report and stressed that while “the COI makes recommendations the decisions to be made are decisions for the government” and not the PSC.
“Going forward, and I believe that it is in that regard that government will have to play a role and the minister will have to play a role and look at everything , all of the recommendations . (They will have to ask) What it is that Guyana wants to see, what kind of state it is that Guyana wants to have going forward? What police force do we want to have, what resources we want to give to this police force, are they going to be just people in car and on foot or we are going to give them the necessary equipment to perform their duties, that is to say (for example) a strong marine wing?” he asked.
Further, he added, “Long ago the police force used to have a police marine wing that dealt with matters on the water and in the rivers and so on. They need a strong access to aircraft facilities so that they can do actual patrols and so on in the hinterland. I think it is even more necessary now than before,” he said as he pointed out that Guyana would soon be an oil producing nation and with it comes more human traffic.
Harmon referred to President Granger’s speech at Lethem earlier this year when he stressed the need for “a total defence and the total security of our borders.”
He said that when the decisions are made by government pertaining to the GPF it would be in this regard.
But Nandlall says that he, like the PPP/C that he represents, believes strongly that from the time that the Commission of Inquiry was established it was unnecessary and was a waste of taxpayers’ money.
That is because he is adamant that its establishment was with the ulterior motive of targeting certain identified officers in the upper echelons of the Force.
“As the inquiry unfolded, each day proved me correct. Throughout the COI, based on reports in the press of its hearing, it became abundantly clear that it was a witch-hunting exercise to target and impugn the conduct of certain police officers with a view to affecting their upward mobility in the Force.
The fact that the Government chose an investigation into an alleged plot to assassinate the President as the occasion to do so rather than the findings of an expert body, after some examination would have been concluded, perverted the matter even more,” he stressed.
“Based upon excerpts of the report which apparently have been leaked, I am vindicated in all my suspicions and apprehensions. A number of top ranking officers, some of whom hardly played a role in the investigation into the alleged plot to assassinate the President, have been identified for disciplinary actions. Quite frankly, no argument which the Government advances can convince a sensible citizen that the COI was not established to achieve this specific purpose. From all indications, the cold, hard reality is that the allegations surrounding this plot to assassinate the President were investigated by the relevant department of the Force, the files were reviewed by the Police Legal Adviser and the allegations were deemed to be incredible and unworthy of forming the basis for the prosecution of ensuing criminal charges,” he added.
He dismissed Harmon’s claims that decisions made from the COI’s recommendations would be for the holistic structural soundness of the GPF saying that Harmon’s own actions in ordering a halt of the police promotions in the name of the President was indicative of sinister plans.
“Unfortunately for the Government, it showed its hand early when the very Minister Harmon wrote to the Police Service Commission, conveying to them a direction from the President not to proceed to address the promotion of police officers. This direction came long before the conclusion of the COI”, Nandlall said.