Having read Maxwell E Edwards’ response to Chevy Devonish addressing the issue whether the President has the authority to direct the Police Service Commission not to act on the list which forms the recommendation for promotions in the Police Force, there arise issues for further deliberation.
The Guyana Police Force is part of the State not the government, and it follows that policemen and women are employees of the State not the government. Employees of the State continue in employment regardless of which political administration is in government, while employees of the government serve at the pleasure of the political administration. Mr Edwards did not make or recognise the difference and the importance of respecting it.
The Police Service Commission (PSC) (Article 210-212) is a constitutional body, guided by its own rules regarding its operation. Constitutional commissions are independent of interference into their day-to-day management, including interference from the executive branch. Note is taken of the articles referenced from the Constitution to lend the impression of permissible intrusion, yet none of these articles, expressly or implicitly, permits such action.
Constitutions are not written in vacuum but grounded in the people’s history, belief systems, dreams and aspirations. Article 89, as referenced by Edwards, that deems the President “the supreme executive authority” has to be interpreted in the context that influenced its presence. With the 1980 Constitution, the presidency moved from being titular to having executive responsibility, and with Guyana republican status to being the head of government, head of state and commander-in-chief, shedding historical control by the Crown. Articles 89 and 99, which deal with the authority of the President, do not mean this authority allows expansion and interference into areas not authorised.
The stated articles cannot operate outside of the parameters of the Constitution, laws, international conventions, charters and universal acceptable principles that so constrain the president in the day-to-day administration of duties. Similar misapplication was done to Article 182, that grants criminal and civil immunity to the holder in the discharge of official duties. The deliberate misinterpretation was peddled and encouraged during the Bharrat Jagdeo presidency which witnessed the most egregious period in the nation’s history.
Persons who are placed in positions of privilege need to be careful that while they are insulated by the Constitution they cannot operate in vacuum in relation to what is happening in the society. Since there are concerns being raised as to the integrity of the process used by the Police Force for the compilation of the promotion list, the PSC, to ensure its integrity, should have commenced an inquiry into the matter. It is unfortunate that the President has given instruction that the body should be written to rather than having a discussion with it, based on what has been brought to his attention, and allow its members to benefit from his observation and in so doing make a decision on all the facts.
While the Constitution says the PSC is an independent body it does not prevent any citizen, including the President, from questioning the conduct of any of its members or the body in total. At the same time it is important to note that the right to question is not equivalent to any right to instruct.
This country needs constitutional education. Moving to justify misinterpretation of the Constitution or seeking to reform without seeking to know what’s ensconced is a wrong approach to bring about accountable/good governance. The politicians are once again called on to let the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform function. The functioning of this body, according to its Article 119A (1) would allow for, “continually reviewing the effectiveness of the working of the Constitution and making periodic reports thereon to the Assembly, with proposals for reform as necessary.” There cannot be good governance or effective reform in a sea of ignorance or cherry-picking the Constitution. The people continue to be victims of both.