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Please permit me space in your newspaper to respond to an article captioned “Attorney-General exposes APNU’s constitutional atrocity”, which was published in the Guyana Chronicle on Saturday September 2, 2023.
Let me from the outset state that I hold no brief for the APNU. How-ever, I was mentioned by name in the article so I feel compelled to respond and set the records straight.
The article stated that the “Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C., has raised serious concerns about what he calls a constitutional atrocity, related to the appointment of former Commissioner (ag) Nigel Hoppie by the then APNU+AFC government”.
The article attributed several statements to the Attorney General and published a letter from the Ministry of Public Security, dated July 30, 2020, which was addressed to Mr. Leslie James, DSS, DSM Commissioner of Police, in what appears to be a futile attempt to justify the “constitutional atrocity” claim. The letter in question informed Commissioner James that approval was granted for him to proceed on two hundred and seventy four days (274) pre-retirement leave with effect from July 31, 2020. The letter also stated that approval was granted for Deputy Commissioner Nigel Hoppie to perform the duties of Commissioner of Police. The letter was signed by the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Public Security, Ms. Daniella Mc Calmon, and copied to the Secretary Police Service Commission, the Auditor General and the Accountant General. It must be noted that the letter was not addressed nor copied to Hoppie.
I wish to state that contrary to the statement attributed to the Attorney General, Deputy Commissioner Nigel Hoppie was never appointed acting Commissioner of Police.
When Commissioner James proceeded on pre-retirement leave on July 31, 2020, Hoppie, as the next senior rank in the Guyana Police Force, was made to perform the duties of Commissioner, that fact is clearly stated in the letter to James. This was in keeping with the long established protocol in the Guyana Police Force. On at least two occasions, as the second most senior rank in the Force, I was made to perform the duties of Commissioner of Police in the absence of the substantive Commissioner.
Let me point out that there is a significant difference between someone who is made to act as the Commissioner of Police and someone who is made to carry out those duties: Article 211 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana outlines the procedure to appoint a Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners of Police, either substantively or to act in those positions. That Article clearly states that those appointments are made by the President after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission, who must first consult with the other members of the Commission.
I submit that in the absence of that constitutionally mandated procedure Hoppie could not be said to have been appointed acting Commissioner of Police; as stated in the letter, he was only performing the duties of that office.
To support this contention it must be noted that between Friday, July 31, 2020 when Hoppie commenced performing the duties of Commissioner of Police and Sunday, March 27, 2022 when he proceeded on pre-retirement leave, he never wore the badge of rank of Commissioner of Police. He correctly continued to wear the badge of rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police. It is apposite to note that Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken who was controversially appointed to act as Commissioner of Police has been wearing the badge of rank of Commissioner of Police since his appointment.
The main claim by the Attorney General is that the APNU+AFC government violated the constitution by appointing Deputy Commissioner Nigel Hoppie to act as Commissioner of Police without complying with Article 211 of the Constitution. As stated above this assertion by the Attorney General is disingenuous, totally misleading and demonstrably false. To highlight the false nature of the statements allegedly made by the Attorney General I would like to point out the following: the letter for Commissioner James to proceed on pre-retirement leave is dated July 30, 2020.
James proceeded on leave the following day, July 31, and Hoppie commenced performing the duties of Commissioner from that very day. President Mohamed Irfaan Ali was sworn in on Sunday August 2, 2020. The Attorney General was also sworn in that same day. It simply means that even if the APNU+AFC government intended to initiate the constitutional process to appoint Hoppie as acting Commissioner of Police there was no time for them to do so.
The article further stated that at the time of Hoppie’s appointment, Bharrat Jagdeo was the Leader of the Opposition while Paul Slowe was the Chairman of the Police Service Commission. As stated before Hoppie was never appointed acting Commissioner of Police. I challenge the Attorney General, or anyone else, to produce any letter or other document to show that Deputy Commissioner Nigel Hoppie was appointed to act as Commissioner of Police.
It should be noted that Guyana’s 12th Parliament was convened in September 2020 and Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Joseph Harmon, MSM, became the Leader of the Opposition. He remained the Leader of the Opposition until he resigned from that position in January 2022. When Mr. Harmon became the Leader of the Opposition the Police Service Commission, of which I was the Chairman, was in place until it was unlawfully suspended on June 16, 2021. This means that the constitutional bodies, i.e. the Leader of the Opposition and the Police Service Commission were in place for approximately nine months during which time President Mohamed Irfaan Ali could have initiated the constitutional process to appoint Hoppie as the acting Commissioner of Police. The loquacious Attorney General should explain to the Guyanese public why this was not done.
In the challenge to the appointment of Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken to act as Commissioner of Police it was submitted that Article 211 was not complied with (there was no consultation with the Leader of the Opposition), the government’s contended, that there was no Leader of the Opposition at the time of the appointment in March 2022 and because of the importance of the office of the Commissioner of Police it was necessary for that appointment to be made.
The Attorney General should also explain when the office of Commissioner of Police became important. It surely was not between September 2020 and June 2021 when the constitutional bodies were in place and the appointment of Hoppie as acting Commissioner of Police could have been lawfully made.
Let me remind the Attorney General and readers that in August 2018 President David Granger consulted with the Opposition Leader, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who was accompanied by Ms. Gail Teixeira and Mr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, and I as Chairman of the Police Service Commission, as stipulated by the Constitution, before appointing Assistant Commissioner Leslie James as Commissioner of Police and Assistant Commissioners Paul Williams, Nigel Hoppie, Lyndon Alves and Woman Assistant Commissioner Maxine Graham as Deputy Commissioners. It therefore shows that the “constitutional atrocity” the Attorney General speaks of is a figment of his imagination.
Paul Slowe, CCH, DSM, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Ret’d).
Former Chairman of the Police Service Commission.