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By Svetlana Marshall
One day after communication broke down between President Irfaan Ali and the Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton, the Guyanese leader moved to appoint Members of the Police Service Commission including its Chairman, but, in the absence of meaningful consultation as required by the Constitution of Guyana.
Ahead of those appointments, the Opposition Leader warned that legal actions would be taken.
Bishop Patrick Findlay, Mark Conway and Ernesto Choo-a-Fat were sworn-in by President Ali as Members of the Police Service Commission with Bishop Findlay appointed Chairman. A fourth member, Hakeem Mohammed would be sworn in subsequently; he was unavoidably absent.
According to Article 210 of the Constitution of Guyana, “(1) the Police Service Commission shall consist of – (a) a Chairman appointed by the President acting after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition from among members appointed under subparagraph (d).”
Notably, Article 210 (1) (c) adds that the Commission shall also consist of “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 the members of the Police Force and any other such body it deems fit.”
During the swearing-in ceremony at the Office of the President on Tuesday, President Ali said the appointments followed the process outlined in the Constitution of Guyana, noting that the newly appointed members were nominated by the National Assembly.
The Head of State also expressed confidence in their ability to serve.
“I have said before in chartering this course of ‘One Guyana’ we will seek out from among us those who have the credentials and are willing and ready to serve at every level in moving our country forward. It will not and cannot be based on any other principle but that of fairness, justice, integrity and most of all confidence,” President Ali said.
He detailed that on April 29, 2022, he invited the Opposition Leader to a meeting to consult on proposed members for a number of constitutional agencies and in response, the Opposition Leader, on May 9, requested additional information on the proposed nominees and the corresponding agencies. The information, he said, was provided the very day, including the identified nominee for the Chair of the Police Service Commission.
However, the Opposition Leader, on May 11, indicated in an official correspondence that the President’s response was “bereft of information.” Nonetheless, the two leaders met on May 13, and it was during that high-level meeting that Norton requested the CVs for the proposed nominees. That request, the President said, was fulfilled with a total of 14 CVs being submitted.
The Head of State said an invitation for a second in-person consultation was extended to the Opposition Leader on May 27, however, it was not until 14:15hrs on May 30, 2022 – the scheduled date of the meeting – that his Office was informed that Norton had turned down the invitation. The meeting was scheduled for 14:00hrs that day.
But the Opposition Leader, just moments before the appointments were made, vowed to take legal actions should the President proceed to make constitutional appointments without meaningful consultation with him as required by the Constitution.
He is of the opinion that it was “always” the President’s intention to proceed with appointments without any meaningful consultation.
“They might go ahead, I don’t doubt it; they seem to want to go ahead, but it will be challenged in the Courts, that is the bottom line,” he said.
Norton added: “It is not a choice of the Government to be involved in meaningful consultation, it is mandated by the Constitution, and therefore it should be done in keeping with the Law.”
Further, he said it was the Government that failed to resume the consultations. Norton maintained that the President had failed to meet with him within a period of one week as agreed during the initial meeting. Further, he contended that he was not “in receipt of the grounds upon which each specific recommendation for appointments is being made.”
According to the Opposition Leader, his Office received the letter of invitation after the close of business on Friday, May 27, 2022. “It was left at the guard hut,” he pointed out while noting that he was out of the capital city over the weekend, and was only able to respond to the invitation on Monday, May 30.
Meanwhile, five members were also sworn-in to sit on the Board of the Integrity Commission, however, those appointments are statutory in nature and did not require consultation with the Opposition Leader. The appointed members are: Chandra Gajraj, Dr Jocelin Kim Kyte-Thomas, Mohamed Ispahani Haniff, Hardesh Tewari and Wayne Bowman.
The Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira were among officials present.