No decision yet on Top Cop’s removal

-Harmon

Although government views the recommendations from the recent Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the alleged plot to kill the president seriously, no final decision has been taken on the way forward, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said yesterday.

“They [the recommendations] are still in the contemplation of His Excellency but I can say to you that we are taking those recommendations very seriously and actions will be taken on them,” Harmon told a post-Cabinet press briefing.

His comment came a day after the final report of the CoI, which was conducted by retired Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe, was laid in the National Assembly.

The CoI concluded that Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud’s ability to continue to hold the post has become “untenable” and recommended that he should be made to resign under terms considered appropriate by President David Granger, or if he fails to do so, be removed for misbehaviour.

Acting Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud addressing the conference today.

Furthermore, it was recommended that the officers that played a key role in the investigation of the alleged plot be reassigned, possibly to positions outside of the police force based on their conduct. These officers include Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum, Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken and acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine, who the report stated “lack the professionalism to lead the Guyana Police Force.”

Persaud, who is on accumulated annual leave, is scheduled to demit office in April next year, when he attains the retirement age of 55.

Harmon yesterday said that government views the report as “very sound” and he noted that the commission did an excellent job in trying to unearth evidence and “in fact almost having to seriously cross examine some of the witnesses to arrive at the situation where they could have made some serious recommendations on what has to be done.”

He added that the inquiry “points out very serious challenges in the way in which the police force is organised and the fact that we would need to do some adjustments and look at the way in which the force is being run and managed.”

Harmon disputed that the report indicated that Persaud should be fired. He said that the report spoke about disciplinary actions to be taken against certain persons.

“Certainly, we have to take into consideration the recommendations that have been made. But as I said, the CoI makes recommendations but then …we have to look at the way the entire force will be affected by these recommendations,” he said, before adding that in addition to these recommendations, there are also recommendations from an expert currently looking at the Security Sector Reform Programme.

“So, we will fit all of these things into place and the recommendations will fit into those and the actions which will be taken will be based on the recommendations of the CoI and the determinations also of the security sector reform programme. So you will get something very soon on these recommendations I can promise you that,” he stressed.

The findings of the inquiry are believed to be the reason for President Granger’s contentious directive to the Police Service Commission to stay its consideration of promotions.

Blanhum and Hicken were among those recommended for promotion. Ramnarine, who is next in line after Persaud, was not recommended for promotion.

Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan has publicly stated that the government is happy with Blanhum’s performance, notwithstanding the criticisms of him in the report.

The CoI was established to investigate the allegation made by complainant Andriff Gillard, who claimed that he was offered $7 million by businessman Nizam Khan to kill President Granger, and the force’s handling of the probe.

Although the inquiry found that the allegations made by Gillard were “unsubstantiated” and as a result “tenuous,” it was also concluded that the efforts made on the part of the police force were unsatisfactory.

According to the report, the conduct of the police in the matter “lacked the diligence that was required by a professional investigative body.”

It was further stated that the police’s response in the matter was influenced by the fact that Nizam Khan was the brother of Imran Khan, who had close ties with Persaud, and who also seemed to have influence over transfers and promotions within the force.

For this reason, the report said the failure by the police force to not properly investigate the allegations was intentional.

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