After almost three months of accumulated leave, Senior Superintendent of Police Wendell Blanhum yesterday returned to duty but he has been reassigned from being Crime Chief to being second-in-charge of the Guyana Police Force’s ‘A’ Division.
Blanhum had proceeded on “much desired annualised vacation leave” on September 12.
When contacted by Stabroek News, Blanhum yesterday morning confirmed that he now holds the post of Deputy Commander of the division.
The division is headed by Commander Marlon Chapman.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Williams, who is senior to Blanhum, is currently acting as the Crime Chief.
The reassignment of Blanhum is a clear indication that the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the alleged plot to assassinate the president are being implemented.
Blanhum’s leave was closely followed by President David Granger’s declaration that the CoI into the alleged assassination plot against him had exposed serious deficiencies and weaknesses in the Guyana Police Force.
Granger had also declared that he thought it was “unacceptable” to come to conclusions about the alleged plot before the completion of the investigation. “I think it is completely unacceptable for any public official to deem the allegation or the intention of the plot to assassinate the president of any country as being inherently incredible …that a person who [was] appointed to conduct an investigation, before completing the investigation to come to such conclusions,” he said, in an apparent reference to Blanhum’s testimony before the CoI, in which he had called the allegations of the assassination plot “inherently incredible.”
Blanhum at the time was responding to the question of how he viewed the allegations made by Andriff Gillard, who claimed he was offered $7 million by his neighbour, Nizam Khan, to carry out the assassination. “I would say with the greatest amount of respect, it is my humble opinion that the allegation made by Gillard against Khan is inherently incredible,” Blanhum had stated.
Due to the proximity of the president’s criticism and Blanhum proceeding on leave, speculation arose that he had been sent on leave because of the findings of the inquiry.
However, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan was keen to dispel this notion.
“I notice a lot of people are saying that we are trying to get rid of Blanhum. Blanhum is a serious pillar in this police force… understand that and he has done a fantastic job in the opinion of the government, in the opinion of the minister,” Ramjattan had told a press conference.
He had explained that prior to 2015, Blanhum had accumulated in excess of 100 days of leave and requested earlier in the year, since May or June, to proceed on some of that leave.
The minister had further explained that while the request was approved, Blanhum was unable to proceed on leave because of situations that required his presence. “All that is complete and he’s now on leave,” he added, while noting that he needed Blanhum back at the helm of the CID for the Christmas season, when there is usually a spike in crime.
However, when asked about the reassignment of Blanhum yesterday, Ramjattan referred all questions to acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine. “I think you should talk to the Commissioner. The Commissioner is the one who places people around,” he said.
When contacted by this newspaper yesterday, Ramnarine confirmed that it was his decision to have Blanhum repositioned. “Mr Blanhum reported for duty today [yesterday] and at this point in time it was my decision to have him repositioned because the current Crime Chief Mr Paul Williams has started the Christmas season and he is involved in certain strategies that I would like him to continue until the period is over,” he said.
In June, 2015, Blanhum was appointed the Crime Chief. During his time in the post, he was credited for spearheading investigations in several high profile cases, resulting in charges.
One such example is the police force’s breakthrough in the years-old disappearance of Babita Sarjou, whose skeletal remains were unearthed at the Campbellville residence of her estranged husband in December last year. The man was subsequently charged and was committed to stand trial.
He had also announced the re-opening of investigations into several cold cases, including the murders of Sheema Mangar, Trevor Rose and Monica Reece.
In May last year, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had also lauded the work of Blanhum and said he should be considered immediately for promotion from Senior Superintendent to Assistant Commissioner of Police.