Decision to send ex-SWAT head on leave unlawful -court rules

Motie Dookie

The decision of former acting Police Commissioner to send the ex-Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit head, Deputy Superintendent Motie Dookie, on leave was declared unconstitutional by the High Court on Friday.

Justice Fidella Corbin-Lincoln, who heard Dookie’s application for relief, granted him a writ of certiorari quashing Ramnarine’s decision of 21st May, 2018, sending him on “Special Leave in the Public Interest.” 

According to a press release issued by Dookie’s attorney, Anil Nandlall, the judge in her ruling found Ramnarine’s decision to be not only unconstitutional, but irrational as well.

He noted that among other things, the judge also found Ramnarine’s decision as being based on irrelevant and extraneous considerations, “contrary to the rules of natural justice, unreasonable, unlawful, null, void and of no effect.”

Additionally, the judge has ordered the state to pay $100,000 in costs to Dookie within the next 21 days. In addition to Ramnarine, Attorney General Basil Williams was listed as respondent in the matter.

Following Ramnarine’s decision to send him on leave, Dookie moved to the court, while noting that he was not afforded a hearing and that it was the Police Service Commission (PSC) and not Ramnarine that was 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 that prior to the receipt of the letter informing him that he was being sent on leave, he was not afforded an opportunity to provide an explanation or reason or show cause why such a decision should not be made.

The SWAT head had been accused of smuggling 30 cases of whiskey in December last year, but 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 subsequently posted to ‘A’ Division but reassigned to Police Headquarters, Eve Leary, a few days later. He was sent on special leave following a high profile meeting.

The letter from Ramnarine, captioned “SPECIAL LEAVE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST,” stated, “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.”

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 year August and a new commission was only recently appointed.

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

To this end, 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.

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. Both Felix and Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Department of Public Service, Reginald Brotherson had 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, had advanced that in the absence of a constituted PSC, the authorised minister or agency can take action against police ranks using the Public Service Rules. He 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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