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There is a rule of law in any country. At one time the rule of law was that anyone convicted of murder was automatically sentenced to death. And many walked to the gallows. At one time women were in breach of the law if they wore men’s clothing. Women wearing jeans and slacks these days are normal. In fact, more commonplace are the shorts that are slightly larger than the panties of yesteryear.
Although the law was changed for women to wear men’s clothing, including jacket and tie, men were charged for cross dressing. And as was the case of the women, it took protests from the gay community to force an amendment to this law. Today, if a man pleases, he can dress as a woman.
Motor vehicles in Guyana drive on the left of the road. There is no exception. When they come to traffic lights, they must obey the lights. In fact, there are traffic rules although from the attitude of some road users it is difficult to believe that there are traffic rules. Being perfectly in the right in the event of a traffic accident does not exempt someone from being hauled before the courts. It is said that the police, in an effort to avoid the work, would simply forward the matter to the courts for a decision to be made. Y’all go to court and let the magistrate mek the decision.
There are so many other rules. There are public service rules that determine the age of retirement. For years, people have been trying to change that age. It is 55 and depending on where one stands, 55 is considered young. People are still hale and hearty. They are vibrant. Many people live for almost as long after retirement. However, that rule has not changed.
In a country like Guyana with its small population and with its people having the propensity to migrate, small wonder that those retirees who still have a lot in them would go overseas. There they would seek employment and sometimes earn more than when they were actively involved in their public service career.
But laws are laws and rules are rules. There may be some precedents, but these must be within the law.
A former reporter who is now closely associated with the police became vulgar when news broke that President Irfaan Ali granted an indefinite extension to acting Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken. Hicken attained the age of 55 in July but the rules allowed him to work until the first day of the new month. On August 1, he officially proceeded into retirement. But this time there was no passing out parade. Neither was there any announcement.
At the same time there was no change in the hierarchy of the Guyana Police Force. So people muttered that a civilian was heading the Guyana Police Force. The police public relations carried not an iota about the acting commissioner. It was as if he had fallen off the map. Then came the announcement by President Ali.
One vocal commentator who keeps highlighting the problems in the police force disclosed a number of rules concerning the Guyana Police Force and the granting of extensions. Generally, police commissioners all demitted office at 55, some after serving only a few months.
The first Police Commissioner to be granted an extension was Balram Raghubir. He was not the last. The late Laurie Lewis so loved the job that some said that he approached Mrs. Janet Jagan about serving a bit longer until the government transition was complete. He ended up getting two extensions, in the process preventing the upward mobility of other ranks. Many retired without attaining the highest post in the Guyana Police Force. Lewis had remained on the job for five years longer than he should.
After Lewis there was Floyd McDonald who was the next senior person in line. According to Slowe, McDonald was controversially made Police Commissioner because he had already attained the age of retirement. All the persons who served as commissioners and were granted extensions were duly confirmed as Police Commissioners.
Hicken is the first acting police Commissioner to be granted an extension. And the extension was granted after he had attained the age of retirement. This is a precedent, an irregularity, a departure from the rules. This is bound to provoke a legal challenge. To his credit, the acting commissioner has not uttered a word. He will simply continue doing what he has been doing while he has been sitting in the commissioner’s chair.
Could President Ali have taken a man off the streets and put him into the commissioner’s chair? It would seem that was what he did unless the extension letter was backdated to July 31 or before. This is reminiscent of the complete dismantling of the hierarchy of the Guyana Defence Force by Bharrat Jagdeo. He removed four senior ranks and had them transferred to other government departments. One man, Colonel Gordon Benn, was among those removed. But he was immediately gobbled up by the United Nations. Today he is serving in Israel having previously served in Sudan.
And so, some people were promoted in the Guyana Defence Force. Rear Admiral Gary Bess headed the army because Jagdeo’s first choice, Col Andrew Pompey, declined the office and remained in the United States. But Bess and the others all retired when they attained the age.
So, we have what seems to be a breach of the rules. Let’s hope that some aspiring young policeman does not take the matter to court on the ground that his promotion is being stymied.