Assassination plot findings must be factored into UK expert’s security reform plan

-retired Assistant Commissioner

Retired Assistant Com-missioner of Police Clinton Conway says that it is of paramount importance that recent developments in the security sector, including the findings of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the alleged assassination plot against the president, are factored into the Security Sector Reform Action Plan (SSRAP) being developed by British expert Lt Col (rtd) Russell Combe.

“The present state of the security sector has to be carefully looked at and a failure to do so would make any plan created of little consequence… those problems will continue to occur and the force will reach a point of no return. He [Combe] has got to look at them [recent incidents] because there are destructive things… and unless they are addressed the police force will continue to suffer,” Conway, who has in excess of 30 years policing experience, told Sunday Stabroek recently. “I don’t know how it will be dealt with but a strong decision has to be taken one way or the other. If you don’t deal with them [the issues] things are going to continue to happen… we got to draw the line, action has got to be taken somewhere,” he added.

Combe, who is on a 12-month stint at the Ministry of the Presidency, is currently working closely with the Guyana government on the SSRAP. At the end of June, Combe presented an interim report. However, it preceded the findings of the CoI, which revealed a fractured hierarchy of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), which was criticised for its lax attitude towards the assassination allegation.

Clinton Conway

Aside from the CoI’s findings and recommendations, which were made public earlier this month, the police force has also been dogged by continued reports of unprofessional conduct. Only recently, two ranks were recently charged with a high profile murder and one of them was also implicated in other criminal activity. The investigation of the recent murder of school teacher Kescia Branche has also highlighted the unprofessional conduct of ranks.

Although noting that previously documented findings and recommendations must not be cast aside, Conway stated that whatever reform the expert will come up with has to take into consideration what occurred during the inquiry.

The CoI concluded that Police Commissioner 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.

The recommendation was made on the grounds that Persaud had interfered in the probe of the alleged assassination plot while he was on vacation leave and influenced the conduct of the investigations; acted improperly by instructing that the brother of the suspect be sent on bail, thereby bypassing the chain of command; failed to recuse himself from the matter although there was a conflict of interest; and failed to review the file on the matter.

It was also recommended that Persaud be investigated for perjury.

The CoI, conducted by retired Assistant Commis-sioner Paul Slowe, was set up 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.

Conway, who spent most of his career training police recruits, does not agree fully with an outsider being called in to fix the problems of the force and noted that the solution ultimately lies in political will.

He said that in looking at the reform of the force, serious attention ought to be placed on training, inclusive of establishing a properly structured training college equipped with the right type of instructors and other resources; career development; succession; salaries; and more equipment for the force. These things, he opined, must also be considered by Combe.

He recalled that during the Bharrat Jagdeo-led administration, approximately 46 cadet officers were recruited, as at that time lots of attention was being placed on the middle management of the police force. He said from then to now it would seem that no attention was and is being paid to them. “They need to be trained, they need to be exposed… because even by natural progression they will be at the top,” he said, before adding that if this special pool of ranks is not looked at now, the force will be encounter problems down the line.

Additionally, he said that attention ought to be given to enhancing the police’s presence in the interior and increasing the mobility of those ranks as well as creating ways to improve public confidence in the force.

‘A long time’

“We are taking too much time… too long to make decisions,” he said before adding that he is optimistic that some good would come out of the resuscitated SSRAP. “I want it to come and I hope it is going to come. It’s taking a long time but I believe it’s going to come….We need a change at the top, the middle, the bottom. If we don’t act swiftly, we will continue to go down”, he said.

Meanwhile Chairman of the Private Sector Com-mission (PSC) Edward (Eddie) Boyer informed that the commission met with Combe in January and had outlined some of its concerns regarding policing and the security sector.

Like Conway, he expects that Combe’s final report will address some of the recent occurrences. He said that the PSC is expecting that the report will be made public and that the contents of the plan will be implemented sooner rather than later.

Boyer also noted that the stand out police events this year have occurred within a short space of time. “Combe should look at them and incorporate them into whatever he is doing,” he said.

During an interview in May, Combe had told this newspaper that while he may make recommendations of his own, he is seeking to ensure than there is no duplication or overlap of work already done in the area of security reform.

According to Combe, his first few weeks in Guyana were spent vigorously gathering and absorbing information on the work done in the area of security reform as far back as 2000.

Noting that much of that information is still valid today and therefore should be considered, he said that he has been speaking to the top brass of the disciplined services – the GPF, the Guyana Defense Force (GDF), the Fire Service and the Prison Service.

Up to that point, he said he had already met with President David Granger, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan the Commissioner of Police and the divisional commanders, the Chief Fire Officer and the Director of Prisons.

Combe informed that he had identified some priority areas that ought to be considered, including resources and the logistical support given to the police, which determines their ability to operate and to respond. He had also identified the living standards of the ranks as a priority area. “Often, it is forgotten that one of the greatest commodities or aspects of any organisation is its people and they need to be correctly treated and properly resourced to do the job,” he said.

He had hinted that given the scope of his work his time in Guyana may have to be extended.

Soon after entering office in 2015, Granger had revealed that government had approached the British Government to have the SSRAP, which had been rejected by the PPP/C government, back on the cards in the wake of the country’s ongoing battle with crime. It was as a result of those engagements that Combe was brought to Guyana.

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