Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan yesterday said that “serious consideration” is being given to changing the rules governing the issuance of firearm licences to prevent a police commissioner from granting him or herself one.
His disclosure comes in wake of the recent revelation that now-retired Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud granted himself a gun dealership licence in keeping with a precedent set by his predecessors.
Ramjattan subsequently ordered Persaud to revoke the licence.
“We are giving that serious consideration as we speak…Quite frankly, I had really thought there [were] regulations already made that it has to come to the ministry and so, over the weekend, I was trying but I [didn’t] get the recent addition of the regulations and so I will have to make a check of it. It is provided for in there [the regulations],” he told reporters yesterday at a press conference for the 42nd anniversary of Community Policing Organisations in Guyana.
Ramjattan was asked about his plans to have the Firearm Act amended to avoid incumbent senior officers of the force granting themselves licences just before they enter retirement.
The minister said that an amendment to the regulations is what is required to remedy the situation.
“I will ask the Attorney General to also give me an opinion on it. If not, then we will have to go back to the parliament. I think it will be done in regulations, you don’t have to go to do an amendment to the Police Act, I think …we can satisfy that by a mere regulation,” he said.
Stabroek News found nothing to suggest that the Commissioner can bypass the process as it is outlined on the Firearms Dealer’s Licence application form, which makes no differentiation between an ordinary citizen and a police commissioner.
It states that the applicant first has to complete an application form, which is then submitted along with the required documentation to either the Divisional Commander, the Commissioner of Police or the Ministry. The applicant will then be issued with an acknowledgement letter by the Commissioner, who then forwards the application to the Criminal Investigation Department, Special Branch, and the relevant Divisional Com-mander, as the case may be, for the processing of the application to commence.
During the processing of the application, police officers will visit the residence of the applicant, who will be required to give a statement and have his/her fingerprints taken. The Divisional Commander subsequently verifies the information contained in the application, and submits a report to the Commissioner with a recommendation.
The Criminal Investigation Department and Special Branch, it was stated, will then communicate the findings of their investigations to the Commissioner, who, after receiving the required reports, will forward his findings and recommendation to the Minister of Public Security for review by the Firearms Licencing Approval Board. The Firearms Licencing Approval Board will then review the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police and make a recommendation to the Minister of Public Security. The Minister of Public Security will then grant or withhold his “no objection” to the recommendation of the Firearms Licencing Approval Board.
The Commissioner of Police is then notified of the outcome of the application and subsequently notifies the applicant of the decision made in writing.
Unsuccessful applicants are advised of their right to appeal the refusal of their applications for firearm licences under the Firearms Act. The appeal must be submitted to the President.
Last Wednesday, following his farewell parade, Persaud defended the decision he made in January to grant himself a gun dealership licence, saying that he was following the precedent that his predecessors left behind.
“If you look, historically, you would see that over the last 25 years all the commissioners, maybe with the exception of one, granted themselves firearms licences, so it is not anything new and you know we live in a society today where one set of circumstances is good for one person but not good for the other,” he told reporters, while insisting that he had committed no wrong.
The State-owned Guyana Chronicle reported on the issue the same day of Persaud’s farewell parade.
Persaud, who served the Guyana Police Force for 34 years, has been embroiled in controversy during the last few months. His conduct in the probe of an alleged plot to assassinate President David Granger came under much scrutiny by a Commission of Inquiry, which concluded that his ability to continue to hold the post had become “untenable” and recommended that he should be made to resign under terms considered appropriate by the President, or if he failed to do so, be removed for misbehaviour.
According to the Guyana Chronicle report, Persaud applied to himself and granted approval for his business, Professional Outdoor Supplies, to be granted permission as a registered firearms dealer as well as being licenced to carry various calibre of weapons. The newspaper quoted from correspondence Persaud wrote to himself, the final one dated January 29th, 2018, in which Persaud wrote that the application for the licence had been approved and that he had to make contact with the Assistant Commissioner Law Enforcement at the Criminal Investigation Department Headquarters, in connection with its issuance.
Persaud explained to reporters that given what has happened, he would no longer be pursuing the gun dealership business, which was to be his post-retirement job.
“Regarding the firearm dealership licence, in the 1980s there was a commissioner who granted himself (a) dealership licence so there is precedence. However, I was discouraged to go along that line of business and so I wouldn’t pursue that,” he said.
Asked if he did not see anything wrong with what he had done, he said, “No, there is precedent for it. It happened with all the commissioners. Something is wrong with this commissioner that …they tell the public that this is wrong?”