While noting that possibly advertising the post of Police Commissioner is a decision for the president, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday said that during his tenure as head of state he conducted two assessments of the top four ranks of the force before making a choice.
“I believe that it is up to the president to determine that [advertising] but the way I approached it when [Winston] Felix was named is that I took the top four candidates, the top people in the force at that time, had an assessment done, sent them abroad, had a second assessment done and from the four I chose Felix who came out the best,” he told Stabroek News.
Felix, who was appointed Police Commissioner in 2004 and retired in 2006, is the current Minister of Citizenship.
Now retired Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud demitted office on Monday and to date a replacement has not been named.
Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran, writing in his weekly Conversation Tree column, has suggested that the post should be advertised. This opinion has attracted differing views.
Speaking to this newspaper shortly after his weekly press conference on Thursday , Jagdeo said that the president has not yet contacted him with regards to consulting on the appointment but he noted that he was not expecting to hear anything as “the expectations of this government [are] very low.”
When asked if he was in support of the post being advertised, he said “it would be hypocritical of me to suggest that to the president now.”
He added that he was able to make his selection through a process.
Historically, the appointee has been made selected based on seniority. Speculation is now rife as to whether or not the president’s choice to replace Persaud will follow such a principle.
Jagdeo made it clear to Stabroek News that seniority did not play a part in his final selection. “We said, ‘Let’s see these top four positions and let them compete,’” he said.
Ramkarran’s suggestion was based on the fact that President David Granger had initiated such a process to identify candidates for the positions of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice and he said that it was productive.
“Consistency demands that the position of Commissioner of Police be similarly advertised so as to attract the best qualified from Guyana and the region,” Ramkarran, a former two-term Speaker of the National Assembly, wrote.
Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan disagrees with Ramkarran’s view. He is in favour of continuing to adhere to the constitutional process already in place to fill the vacancy.
“I believe that there is a process under the Constitution and that constitutional process should be adhered to. If at the gathering of more candidates you need an advertisement,that will be entirely a question on the president’s part. The president is the one who makes the appointment of a Police Commissioner based on consultations with the leader of the opposition and I think after consultation with the Police Service Commission,” he said on Monday.
Cleansing the force
Meanwhile, with regards to the president’s failure to constitute the Police Service Commission more than six months after the life of the last body came to an end, Jagdeo charged that the president “wants to get rid of some people, to cleanse the force.”
Shortly before its life ended, the commission was instructed by the president to halt its considerations of police promotions. The names of several senior officers were noticeably absent from the list, which was compiled by Persaud. Granger had justified his actions, while stating that letters of complaints and an apparent compromised nomination process caused him to intervene.
Jagdeo reminded that Granger had publicly said that the Commission would be reconstituted by the end of last year.
Jagdeo said the failure of the president to keep his promise would damage the image of the force. He also accused the president of attacking the ranks.
“The policemen are under assault now. I looked at the president’s speech when he addressed the officers [at the annual officers’ conference]. The president has to speak frankly; he has concerns, he has to express that to the officers in an open manner but …he did it in a manner that was demeaning, that is demoralising…,” he noted.
He said that Ramjattan believes that a lot of the senior ranks are doing a great job, while the president has a different view. “That is why I believe that the president wants to cleanse the entire top leadership of the police force and he is hiding behind some British consultant report, the Paul Slowe report and Lindo Creek [Commission of Inquiry] that would point out some deficiency somewhere along the lines and then say look at what my findings are but not a real objective kind of assessment of the quality of the police force,” he said.