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I believe most of what the chairperson of the Police Service Commission (PSC) Mr. Paul Slowe had to say about his direct and telephone encounters with President Irfaan Ali in relation to the latter’s quest to get his supporters promoted by the PSC. This kind of behaviour is not uncommon: what is new, shocking and should be thoroughly investigated is Slowe’s allegation that the regime is attempting to tarnish his reputation, charge and possibly jail him, because he refused to submit to what he believed to be illegal demands.
Firstly, allow me to put three issues to rest. Like Paul Slowe, I am from Beterverwagting Village and am quite familiar with him. Secondly, it does appear that he and those other functionaries on the PSC who took paid work from the Guyana Police Force over which they have employment, promotion and disciplinary responsibility are in a conflict of interest. Of course culpability must be shared by the high political and bureaucratic officials who allowed this arrangement. Finally, given the context within which it is being made, the allegation of rape, which Mr. Slowe vehemently denies, appears possibly contrived but nonetheless must be properly investigated.
I am not surprised by the government’s behaviour for in 2017, President David Granger wrote to the Police Service Commission ‘that there be no consideration of promotions for members of the Guyana Police Force … until further notice.’ This is in spite of Article 226(1) of the Constitution which stating 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.’
The media went to town on Granger for this statement and the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, was effusive ‘This is yet another vulgar and authoritarian attempt by the President to trample upon the independence and functional autonomy of a Constitutional Agency.’ This excellent piece of demagoguery might well explain why the PPP/C thought it had to go about getting its people promoted in a surreptitious manner but it does not explain the urgency the government behaviour portrays.
The term of the present PSC will end in August and in practice, like most of these service commissions, the Constitution gives the President a substantial say in determining their entire membership. According to Article 210(1) of the Constitution, the PSC must consist of ‘a Chairman appointed by the President acting after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition from the four members appointed by the President upon nomination by the National Assembly after it has consulted such bodies as appear to it to represent the majority of members of the Police Force and any other such body it deems fit’ and ‘the Chairman of the Public Service Commission.’ As we are all aware, once it has a majority our parliamentary system gives the president’s party control over the National Assembly and consultation is not agreement. Furthermore, by Article 212(1) the PSC only has authority over persons from the rank of inspector to assistant commissioner, lower ranks came under the authority Commissioner of Police and those above are appointed by the President after consultations. Since in a very short period the PPP/C will be in a position to appoint a more amenable commission, why the emergency?
Chairman Slowe believes that since the usual promotion and reward process in the GPF is hierarchical, the president wants to immediately position sufficient of his people in its higher ranks to be able to appoint them to the pinnacle of the force and have control of it over a long period of time. Others speculate that elections are best manipulated long before elections day and charges have been brought against persons for purported crimes on that day. Therefore, for the process to be credible, the regime will have to deal with the information in the report of the Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission, partially verified by the police, that the 2020 election was manipulated. It wants its people in place immediately to, at the very least, throw cold water on the methodology used in the collection of the information given to the CEO.
Usually, governments do try to get persons of their ideological persuasion appointed to sensitive offices. However, if the PPP/C has indeed sought to coerce members the PSC in the ways suggested, they would have taken the process of public management to another dangerous level. This is particularly noteworthy in a context where there is a substantial body of opinion which holds that in its previous incarnation the PPP/C unjustifiably used the law and imprisonment to try and quell political dissent.