President says awaiting written ruling from court on directive to Police Service Commission

When its written version is available, President David Granger says that he will respond to the recent court ruling that the directive he gave to the Police Service Commission (PSC) to halt its consideration of planned police promotions was unlawful.

“The Government of Guyana is very respectful of the rulings of the High Court and of the honourable Chief Justice. We always wait for the written ruling, not that we distrust the press, but sometimes you know people may get things wrong. When we get the written ruling, there will be a formal response”, he said, moments after an accreditation ceremony at State House had ended.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George handed down an oral decision in the matter on November 22 saying in part that government showed flagrant disregard for the constitution and pointed out that a similar transgression was committed two years prior.

In the recent case, Minister of State Joseph Harmon issued the directive on behalf of Granger. The directive was issued by way of letter to the PSC Secretary.

“You know very well the reasons why we had to take action. The Government of Guyana is deeply concerned about State security and we would have been failing in our duty if we ignored the warnings which came to us in a very direct manner that State security was being imperiled, it was being jeopardized by certain actions. So there was a question of necessity on the part of the government of Guyana and as I said, I’d like to iterate that we are respectful of the Honourable Chief Justice’s rulings and that we will examine carefully, the written ruling when it comes to us,” the President said.

Granger had previously justified the directive saying that it was done in wake 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 had said.

On August 17, Anil Nandlall, a former Attorney General filed a court action on behalf of Rajendra Jaigobin challenging the letter and its contents.

Nandlall asked the court to grant “a declaration that the Police Service Commission, a Commission established by the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, in the exercise of its functions shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority;

“A declaration that a letter dated the 26th of July, 2017, directed to the Secretary of the Public Service Commission, a Commission established by the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, by Mr. Joseph Harmon, Minister of State and a member of the Executive, advising that `His Excellency, President David Granger, has directed that there be no consideration of promotions for members of the Guyana Police Force by the Police Service Commission, until further notice …’, is in violation of Article 226 of the Constitution of the Cooperative of Guyana, is unlawful, null, void and of no legal effect”.

Nandlall told Stabroek News after the ruling was delivered that the Chief Justice (ag) granted the declarations sought by the Applicant (Jaigobin) and ordered the Attorney General (Respondent) to pay to the Applicant $200, 000 as costs.

He said that in an oral version of her ruling, the Chief Justice (ag) stated that the Application was justified in the public interest and therefore the Applicant has locus standi especially in light of the development of the law on locus standi. According to him, the judge said that the letter sent by Minister Harmon was in flagrant disregard of the constitution and is unlawful, null, void and of no effect; that she hoped that the PSC did not act upon the unconstitutional letter and that it speaks volumes that the Attorney General did not defend the matter on the merits but rather sought to hide behind legal

arguments such as:  “locus standi” and “that the matter is of academic importance”.

According to Nandlall, Justice George made it is clear that this issue is not of academic importance but it is an issue of high constitutional importance, that only two years ago, Minister Simona Broomes, another Minister of the Government had issued similar directions to a Service Commission and although the Court with the consent of the Attorney General had declared that that letter had been in violation of the constitution, a similar palpable violation of the constitution was repeated by another Minister, that in the face of this flagrant disregard for the constitution which the state conceded two years ago, the state should have done the honourable thing and correct the error rather than seek to defend these proceedings and that in the circumstances, the actions of  Minister Harmon in writing that the President has directed that there be no consideration of promotion of police officers was a blatant disregard of Article 226 of the Constitution which insulates the Police Service Commission from influence and directions of any other person or authority, especially political directions.


Accumulated leave

Granger yesterday insisted  that the Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud’s prolong absence from office is in no way linked to the PSC. In fact he said that Persaud is away from office because of a large amount of accumulated leave.  Persaud was sent to return to office from four months of leave on November 23. However he was directed to take an additional 56 days which will see him returning to office on January 22.

Persaud, it was revealed, had submitted a promotion list to the PSC. Absent from the list were the names of several senior members of the Force including the most senior rank under him, Assistant Commissioner David Ramanrine. Observers has said that an ongoing problem between the two was the reason for exclusion of Ramnarine’s name.

“No, no, no! From the time I got into office, from the time the coalition went into office, we made it clear that we did not support the practice which existed in the past for public officers to accumulate huge amounts of leave and them sometimes request payment in lieu of leave and in the case of …Persaud and in the case of every other public servant, we said…public servants must enjoy their leave when it is due”, he said when asked if Persaud’s long period of absence away from office had anything to do with the PSC issue.

“So in this case, all we did, we insisted that the leave that was due to Mr Seelall Persaud be enjoyed rather than having it piecemeal, we said let him take his leave and at the end of that leave, we will decide how we go forward but right now there is nothing abnormal or irregular about Mr Persaud going on leave. The leave is due to him, he is not being sent on administrative leave, he is enjoying vacation leave to which he is entitled”, he said.

According to Granger, taking leave when it is due, encourages the development of a good career system in which the subordinates are allowed to act.

He later informed that government is working to have the PSC reconstituted during next month. “We are interested as you can see in filling all constitutional offices and we have been very assiduous in doing that”, he stressed.

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