Ex-SWAT head sent on leave in line with public service rules –Felix

Winston Felix

Former SWAT Unit head Motie Dookie was sent on special leave with full pay in accordance with the 1987 Public Service Rules, according to Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix, who yesterday challenged former Attorney General Anil Nandlall’s claim that the decision was illegal.

“If it’s illegal, take it to court, don’t write about it,” Felix said when contacted by Stabroek News for a response to Nandlall’s claim that the action taken against Dookie was illegal.

Motie Dookie

The decision was taken while Felix was performing the functions of Public Security Minister. At the time, the substantive Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, was abroad on official duties.

In a statement issued on May 27th, Nandlall said that the only authority vested with the power to make such a decision is the Police Service Commission. The life of that commission came to an end last August and a list of nominees is currently before the National Assembly awaiting approval.

Dookie, who was accused of smuggling 30 cases of whisky in December last year, was spared of criminal charges after the driver of the vehicle that he was in at the time of the interception took full responsibility.

He was relieved of his duties as the commander of the SWAT Unit and was temporarily transferred to the force’s Strategic Planning Unit. In a surprise move, he was posted to the Police ‘A’ Division last month but reassigned to Police Headquarters, Eve Leary a few days later. On May 24th, the decision to send him on special leave was made.

When contacted yesterday, Felix quoted Rule H33 under Section H, which deals with special leave on the ground of public interest, to defend the legality of the decision made. It states, “Special leave with full pay on the ground of public interest may, with the approval of the Permanent Secretary, Public Service Ministry, be granted to a public servant upon the recommendation of the Permanent Secretary/ Head of Department/Regional Executive Officer.”

Stressing who has the authority to recommend and approve special leave, he said that according to the rule “there is no scope for the minister” and added that a glance at the rule would give an understanding of what occurred in Dookie’s case. He said that the recommendation made by the named officials is the extent of the rule and “if that does not apply nothing else will.”

Permanent Secretary of the Department of Public Service Reginald Brotherson was not available for comment yesterday.

Anil Nandlall

Nandlall, in his statement, had said that whatever wrong Dookie is accused of, at a minimum, he is entitled to due process and protection of the law. He noted that Dookie holds the rank of Deputy Super-intendent of Police.

“It is now public knowledge that Minister Winston Felix, acting for Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, directed the Commissioner of Police (ag.) David Ramnarine, to remove Dookie as head of the SWAT Unit and send him on `special leave in the public’s interest.’

“Minister Felix, nor Minister Ramjattan, nor even the President, has any lawful authority to give such directions to the Commissioner of Police, nor do they have any authority whatsoever, over the employment, dismissal or discipline of Officer Dookie. The Constitution places that functional remit exclusively in the Police Service Commission. Article 212 of the Constitution provides that ‘…the power to make appointments to any offices in the Police Force of or above the rank of inspector, the power to exercise disciplinary control persons holding or acting in such offices and the power to remove such persons from office shall vest in the Police Service Commission.’

“Clearly, Dookie falls within the ranks provided for and contemplated by this provision. Additionally, Article 226 (1) provides that ‘…in the exercise of its functions under this Constitution, a Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority,’” Nandlall had argued. 

Asked yesterday if he was confirming that he was the one who made the decision to send Dookie on leave, Felix in response said “Whatever was done was in accordance with that rule (H33).The rule has nothing about Felix sending anybody on leave… It talks about public servant being sent on leave in the public interest and with full pay.”

He reiterated that the rule gives no scope for any minister by any name or any appointment to superimpose himself on that provision. “If he finds that illegal let him go his way and do what has he do…I am not in any way mentioned or no minister is mentioned in that. How is it illegal for him to be sent on leave?” he added.

Nandlall had said that the illegality which attends this case is compounded by the fact that Dookie was not even heard before being imposed with the sanctions.

“So not only is the decision wrong on the ground that Minister Felix and Commissioner Ramnarine acted ultra vires and in violation of Article 212 of the Constitution, but the decision is contrary to the rules of natural justice. Mr. Ramjattan is a lawyer of long standing. He must recognise the travesty which has taken place. In fact, he expressed his disagreement with the decision but he appears powerless to change it. It is an utter shame,” Nandlall railed, while charging that the actions meted out to Dookie are discriminatory.

Ramjattan has said that he would have preferred that Dookie remain on duty but would not overrule the decision made by Felix to have him sent on special leave while he was acting in his capacity.

“I would prefer him working, [to] tell you the honest truth,” Ramjattan had told reporters during a press conference.

“The man gets a free salary and he ain’t doing nothing because that is what special leave does, rather than him working. Even if you had to put him in the canine section,” he had pointed out.

Dookie was travelling in a minibus along the Whim Public Road, Corentyne, on December 30th, last year, when it was stopped by a police anti-crime patrol and the 30 cases of whisky were found aboard.

At the time, Dookie and the driver of the minibus were the only occupants of the vehicle.

The police had said that Dookie indicated that 10 cases of whisky were in the minibus and they were to be used for a party. However, a search of the minibus revealed the 30 cases, which were all seized.

The matter was investigated and legal advice sought.

Ramjattan had subsequently said publicly that Dookie should be dismissed from the force for misconduct.

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