Ex-SWAT commander challenges decision to send him on leave

Motie Dookie

Former Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit head Deputy Superintendent Motie Dookie has moved to the court to challenge the decision made last month to send him on special leave in the public interest, arguing that it was unlawful.

In an application which was filed on his behalf on Friday by a team of lawyers led by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Dookie is asking the High Court to issue an order to quash the decision, which was made by acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine on May 21st.

Dookie’s application is also asking the court to grant him any other order or relief that it deems fit and just along with costs.

Ramnarine and the Attorney General Basil Williams are listed as the respondents in the matter.

Motie Dookie

Listing the grounds for his application, the application contends that Dookie was not afforded a hearing and that it is the Police Service Commission and not Ramnarine that is the sole and exclusive authority vested with the power to discipline officers of his rank, in accordance with Article 212 (1) of the Constitution.

In his supporting affidavit, Dookie said prior to receipt of the letter, he was not afforded an opportunity to provide an explanation or reason or show cause why such a decision should not be made.

He added that based on the advice of his attorney, he believes that the decision was unconstitutional and unjust, given that he was not afforded a hearing prior to the decision, that the constitution vests the PSC with the “sole and exclusive jurisdiction and authority” to exercise, among other things, disciplinary control, in respect of a police officer of his rank and that Ramnarine has “no authority whatsoever to exercise any discipline, supervision, or sanction” over a police officer of his rank and standing.

Dookie’s application included the letter from Ramnarine informing him of the decision. It letter, with the subject line “SPECIAL LEAVE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST,” reads: “With reference to the above subject, I wish to inform you that a decision has been taken for you to proceed on Special leave in the Public Interest, with immediate effect.”

Dookie, who was accused of smuggling 30 cases of whiskey 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 Commander and temporarily transferred to the force’s Strategic Planning Unit to facilitate an internal investigation. In a surprise move, he was posted to ‘A’ Division last month but reassigned to Police Headquarters, Eve Leary, a few days later. Subsequently, he was sent on special leave following a high profile meeting.

However, in a statement on May 27th, Nandlall challenged the decision saying that only the PSC had the lawful authority to send Dookie on leave. The life of that commission came to an end last August and a list of nominees is currently before the National Assembly awaiting approval.

Nandlall, in his statement, had said that whatever wrong Dookie is accused of, at a minimum, he is entitled to due process and protection under the law.

He cited Article 212 of the Constitution and argued that not even the President has any lawful authority to give directions to the Commissioner of Police to send Dookie on leave.

“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,’” he said, while adding that the illegality of this case is compounded by the fact that Dookie was not even heard before being imposed with the sanctions.

Dookie was sent on leave during the period that Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix was performing the functions of Public Security Minister. At the time, the substantive Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, was abroad on official duties. He and Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Department of Public Service, Reginald Brotherson have since justified the decision.

Felix, during an interview with this newspaper, said Dookie was sent on special leave with full pay in accordance with the 1987 Public Service Rules. He quoted Rule H33 under Section H of the Public Service Rules, which deals with special leave on the ground of public interest, to defend the legality of the decision. 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.”

Brotherson, in his comments to this newspaper on the issue, pointed out that in the absence of a constituted PSC, the authorised minister or agency can take action against police ranks using the Public Service Rules.

In response to queries as to whether he approved the decision and who made the recommendation, Brotherson had made it clear that he cannot “give permission” as the remit of the police doesn’t fall under him. He, however, had related that consultations have always taken place on these types of matters. He had said that the Department would not “recommend” but would give guidance and share information.

The PS had explained that in circumstances where there is no Judicial Service Commission (JSC) or PSC, “the authorised minister or agency will have to act, and in acting, they will consult or use information from the Public Service Rules or the constitution or whatever to legitimise their actions.” But Brotherson stressed that in the absence of a constituted PSC, a person can be sent on leave in the public interest.

“Basically that’s it. If there is no JSC, there is no [PSC], what do you do?” he had asked.

He had insisted that no wrongdoing was committed in sending Dookie on special leave. “It is all legal, very, very legal. If there was a Police Service Commission, they would have had to deal with it immediately,” Brotherson had stated.

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