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On 24th March, High Court Judge Gino Persaud ruled President Irfaan Ali violated the Constitution of Guyana when he suspended retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Slowe-led Police Service Commission (PSC). Persaud ruled Ali failed to put mechanism in place to allow Slowe a fair hearing before suspending the body.
Prime Minister Mark Phillips, in a letter dated 15th June 2021, advised the President to suspend the commission, a decision that was highly criticised. Justice Persaud, whilst noting the advice that led to the suspension of Slowe on 16th June 2021, said the advice was carried out although there was no Judicial Service Commission to appoint a Tribunal to hear allegations against the then PSC. The Judge said the doctrine of necessity would have to be invoked to validate the President’s action.
“In summary, therefore, the decision of His Excellency the President to suspend the chairman and other members of the Commission was unlawful and in contravention of Article 225 of the Constitution, arbitrary, unreasonable, unfair, in violation of a suspended Chairman and Commissioners constitutional rights that are protection of the law and due process of the law,” Persaud ruled.
In an invited comment on the ruling Mr. Roysdale Forde, S.C said it was a significant determination of the court. According to the Forde the ruling is a “rejection of the unconstitutional and highly egregious attack on the Guyana Constitution by the Irfaan Ali government.”
Making known the president acted in flagrant and total disregard of the constitution, the lawyer said Ali had absolutely no authority to remove the commission. He declared the Ali government a lawless one and sees the court’s decision as important for society. “It is important as it is a judicial declaration that reinforces and embues practical value to the constitutional principle of the Rule of Law, and the independence of the constitutional commissions and other organs.”
Further, Persaud’s ruling “coupled with the previous challenge to the government’s control of the finances and expenditures of constitutional bodies, are liberating.” These rulings augur well for democracy, places and consolidates the independence of the court, he said
Slowe, chairman of the last PSC, sought a declaration from the court that the suspension of him and other members was contrary to and in violation of the Constitution of Guyana, particularly Articles 225 (6) and 210 (3).
Forde said whereas Justice Persaud’s message was clear and unambiguous about the supremacy of the Constitution and the importance of government to uphold every article of the constitution he does not hold much hope that the Ali government will adhere to these values.
He warned citizens should have no high expectations of the government curbing its excursion into illegality and unconstitutional conduct. According to Forde, “to end this it means the PPP must be removed from government, must be uninstalled.”
Asked what the Judge’s decision means for depoliticising the commission, the senior counsel advised that whereas the ruling means little in terms of such appointment, its means much for the conduct of the commission insofar as they are manned by persons who are determined to be independent.
Forde said, given the ruling, there must be immediate implementation of the Promotion List as submitted by the Slowe-led Commission
The government has since signalled its intent to appeal the Judge’s decision.