CoI into alleged presidential assassination plot is a smokescreen

Dear Editor,

The move by government to launch a Commission of Inquiry(CoI) into an alleged plot to assassinate the President is nothing more than a smokescreen.

It is to be recalled that an organization calling itself the Amerindian People’s Liberation Front (APLF) issued a statement on February 10, 2013 stating: “The President of Guyana, Donald Ramotar is touring the Rupununi Region of Guyana, today he was in St. Ignatius Village where we had him in a Dragunov rifle scope … he is afraid what will happen if he does not start to respect our rights… we are ready to defend our rights by any means necessary.”

(The Dragunov rifle is a semi-automatic sniper rifle used by marksmen. It has a range of 872 yards and uses 7.62 rounds.)

The matter was fully ventilated at the Central Intelligence Committee where a decision was taken to elevate and investigate the matter to treat it as internal terrorism. It was further decided to upgrade the security detail of President Ramotar. Although it was agreed that the President’s life was at risk, it was not considered necessary to set up a Commission of Inquiry into the matter since the competence of the intelligence community and the security forces to deal with the matter was never in dispute, as it is today as manifested by the ongoing CoI.

President Granger is obviously worried about the loyalty of the current crop of top-ranking officers of the Guyana Police Force to his ruling coalition. Neither can the PNC, as it used to in the past, utilize the Force willy nilly for anti-people activities. Small wonder that the PPP/C sponsored modernization of the GPF was opposed, if not undermined by a clique of officers sympathetic to the APNU+AFC, many of whom, incidentally, have either passed away or have gone into retirement.

The PPP’s model of modernization of the GPF would have been a tremendous boost to rid the Force of the vestiges of past practices and prejudices. It would have helped to root out corruption, favouritism, male domination as well as sexual harassment. It would have resulted in enhanced professionalism, succession planning, the establishment of an Internal Affairs Department, the strengthening of administrative capacity and the establishment of a modern public relations and communications department.

President Granger appears unconvinced that the Force he inherited from the PPP/C is an institution with a leadership and a structure he can trust and rely on. This is because the process of modernizing the Force which started under the PPP/C government had begun to take root and was making an impact at all levels within it. That impact is precisely where the problem is. Consequently, it was becoming obvious with every passing day, that the APNU+AFC had no interest in that model of modernizing the GPF.

Small wonder that police reform per se has not been given any prominence in the terms of reference of the Senior Security Sector Reform Advisor and Project Manager embedded at the Ministry of the Presidency. Rather, emphasis is on ‘national security planning and cross-government coordination mechanisms’. This approach allows the executive to engage in quietly dismantling and restructuring the GPF to dovetail with its national security planning and cross government coordination.

Given its penchant for security matters, the APNU has time and again, arbitrarily bypassed  Khemraj Ramjattan, the AFC subject Minister who is authorized by law to give general orders and direction to the Commissioner of Police, whose task it is to superintend the GPF.

At the rank below the level of Inspector, where promotions are made by the substantive Commissioner of Police, it is to recalled that in late November 2016, a public squabble on the issue of promotions flared up between the Police Commissioner and an Assistant

Commissioner of Police. The matter was resolved in favour of the Assistant Commissioner, but later the Commissioner made changes to the way junior officers were promoted making way for a larger role for the GPF’s Promotions Board. Incidentally, it is this very Assistant Commissioner who recently appeared before the CoI and sought to distance himself from the investigation.

It is palpably clear that the ongoing CoI is heading in a direction to promote to the top those who are considered fit and proper to lead the Guyana Police Force over the next few years in accordance with presidential criteria. It will also lay the basis for the politically inspired internal restructuring and reorganization of the GPF clothed in the rhetoric of police modernization. Whether this will be accepted by the ranks in the Force is another matter.

Yours faithfully,

Clement J Rohee

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