Appearing again before the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into an alleged plot to assassinate President David Granger, Assistant Commissioner of Police David Ramnarine yesterday denied misleading the President at a meeting on March 30th on what had been learnt up to that point in the investigation.
Ramnarine was asked to appear again before the CoI to answer questions from attorney Glenn Hanoman, counsel for Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud.
Hanoman’s line of questioning appeared to suggest that by the March 30th meeting, Ramnarine should have been in possession of several statements which would have cast doubt on the plot allegations made by Andriff Gillard and that this should have been conveyed to the President. In his first appearance before the CoI, Ramnarine raised eyebrows when he said that the police had not properly handled the investigation.
Hanoman put to Ramnarine yesterday that the briefing that he got from Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum prior to the meeting with the President supplied him with information that questioned the credibility of the reporter who had first broadcast Gillard’s allegations, to which he agreed.
“…Were all these statements taken when you were first briefed (by Blanhum)?” Hanoman asked.
“One statement was taken on Wednesday… when I was first briefed by the Crime Chief, at that time there was one statement,” he said. According to Ramnarine this was on the morning of March 30th. Hanoman questioned whether it was the case that when he went to give his first briefing to the President, he told him that one statement was taken, which Ramnarine confirmed.
“At that time, you hadn’t seen any statement?” Hanoman asked. “No, but I also had the benefit of advice from the Special Branch,” Ramnarine replied.
“But first of all don’t you think that it is rather reckless of you to be going to the Head of State without even looking at a file to tell him what was happening?” Hanoman asked. “No,” Ramnarine replied. The attorney later suggested to Ramnarine that he went to give the President false information, which Ramnarine vehemently denied. “That’s quite outrageous counsellor,” Ramnarine declared. “Outrageous? I have evidence before me that statements had been taken from three different persons by the time you went to meet the President… so when you went to the President, you misled him?’’ Hanoman pressed Ramnarine. “I did not mislead the President,” Ramnarine maintained.
Hanoman then said that statements had been taken from the accused plotter Nizam Khan, Gillard and Stephen Persaud by the time Ramnarine had gone to the president.
“When I went to brief the President, it was based on developments of the Wednesday, including the brief that was given to me orally by cellphone by the Crime Chief, who reported to me on the morning of the 30th,” Ramnarine explained.
Hanoman then asked if he did not think it was reckless of him to speak of the investigation when he did not know how many statements had been taken. “No, not reckless at all… this was an initial investigation and it was still continuing,” Ramnarine answered.
The Assistant Police Commissioner confirmed to the CoI that he was aware that the Police Special Branch was involved in the investigations. He said that he ordered background checks on the men under investigation and said that the checks especially on Gillard revealed nothing criminal.
“These checks of both Nizam and Gillard were done on the 29th and at that time did not indicate that they were convicted or charged with criminal offences as of the morning of the 30th,” Ramnarine said.
Hanoman also accused Ramnarine of bearing malice to Police Commission-er Persaud and Crime Chief Blanhum in the investigation of the alleged assassination plot and queried what had become of a report that Ramnarine was to submit to President Granger. At the time of his meeting with the President on March 30th, Ramnarine was acting as Commission-er of Police as Persaud was away.
Ramnarine said that before the briefing with the President, he was told that Gillard and Khan had been released from police custody, which he said surprised him. However, he noted that he reported to the President that the men had been released and were being kept under surveillance, which was advised by the Crime Chief.
Ramnarine reminded the inquiry that after briefing the President, he was then tasked with making an initial police report on what the police force had investigated so far on the matter. According to Ramnarine, that report was supposed to be handed over to the President.
“Now you have encountered some difficulties in getting that report done…?” Hanoman asked.
“At that time there was only one matter concerning that report… that is the statements concerning Gillard… there was some tidying up that needed to be done, like bad grammar…,” Ramnarine replied. He further said that the statement from Gillard was illegible and had to be typewritten.
“You had a problem following what was written in Gillard’s statement?” the attorney asked Ramnarine, who said that he was following it but he could not have given such a statement to the President.
Hanoman later questioned whether Ramnarine had gotten a chance to finish the report before Persaud had returned. Ramnarine confirmed that it was incomplete at the time the Police Commissioner returned. “The way that you give evidence in the inquiry… do you agree that when Mr. Seelall (Persaud) resumed duties that at that stage he then became responsible to prepare the report?” Hanoman asked. “At that stage, he resumed his office as Commissioner of Police and I was now subordinate and so when he resumed I briefed him…and he indicated to me that ‘don’t bother I will do the report and send it,’” Ramnarine replied.
The attorney then asked if Ramnarine had then phoned someone close to the President and told the person that Persaud had come back and taken away the report from him. “…Those are your words and not mine,” Ramnarine retorted as he explained that he did call and relate that the Police Commissioner who was back would be looking after the matter.
“Look, I try to understand you and your motives. The Commissioner is the man to do the report, he has taken over the thing… but the moment you went back to your office…and phone and said, ‘Look, I can’t do the report anymore, Seelall come back and he took it away,’ is that the message you were trying to convey?” Hanoman asked.
“No!” Ramnarine replied. “It was the discipline of the organisation that requires that out of respect [for] his Excellency that had asked me in my capacity as Commissioner at the time that it would have required me indicating through his ADC (Aide de Camp) that the Commissioner had resumed.”
“Did you try to upstage the Commissioner of Police?” Hanoman questioned. “I would never,” Ramnarine answered.
Commissioner of the Inquiry Paul Slowe once again cautioned Hanoman on questioning Ramnarine on information that didn’t pertain to the alleged assassination plot. The attorney wanted to further question Ramnarine about Saddiqi Rasul, who was charged with allegedly committing a billion-dollar fraud on the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry.
“…I believe that I have sufficient evidence to show that it is very possible for this witness to be actuated by malice each and every time he says something bad about Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud and Crime Chief Blanhum. I believe that I have a lot of evidence to show then that he has malice. I would like to pose a series of questions in that regard…,” Hanoman told Slowe. The line of questioning was not permitted.