by Clement J. Rohee
As a former Minister of Home Affairs, I am moved to express publicly, my concern over the current state of affairs in respect to the controversy that is now in the public domain concerning the promotion of senior ranks of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
In his New Year’s Message the Commissioner of Police (ag) is quoted as saying; ‘Bear in mind that the Commissioner of Police promotes ranks up to that of sergeant while the Force recommends and the Police Service Commission (PSC) promotes from Inspector upwards.’
It appears that a number of senior superintendents with a legitimate expectation to be promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner are peeved because the Police Force’s administration did not recommend them to be promoted.
Based on the Commissioner’s message, it follows that responsibility for the controversy that has arisen falls squarely on the shoulders on the administration of the GPF and the Commissioner of Police (ag), since it was the Commissioner’s recommendations to the PSC that caused at least one senior rank to approach the court to block the recommended promotions.
To have a controversy in the public domain over promotions at the senior level of the GPF at this critical stage in the development of the Guyana Police Force and moreso, at a time when government is making every effort at demonstrating its commitment to a strong and vibrant democracy, certainly does not auger well for the image Force’s administration.
Whatever the human resource internal dynamics within the GPF, the controversy over promotions, if not urgently solved to the satisfaction of those affected, can potentially prove unhelpful to succession planning at the GPF.
Addressing the legitimate expectations of ranks in the bracket of senior superintendent who feel disenchanted for one reason or another, is critical for the maintenance of stability and morale uplifting in the Guyana Police Force.
The words of consolation by the Police Commissioner in his New Year’s message to; ‘Those who have not been promoted’ urging them ‘to be patient and murmur not, because ‘one day you will reap your reward’ will not go down well with the aggrieved ranks. In fact, the murmurs have become shout outs that have reached the media and the Court.
The Police (Discipline) Act Ch:17:01 clearly stipulates that ‘Every alleged commission of an offence against discipline under this Act shall be investigated as soon as practicable by a member of the Force not below the rank of sergeant and of a higher rank than the member of the Force who is alleged to have committed the offense.’
The Act goes on to say that ‘The investigating officer shall as soon as practicable inform the member of the Force alleged to have committed an offence against discipline in writing he understands, and the particulars of the facts constituting the offence, and of his right to refuse to make any written or oral statement to the investigating officer unless he otherwise desires.’
If, as we are told, that the alleged disciplinary offences go as far back as three years or more, then surely someone has to answer the question why did the Force’s administration not act expeditiously to bring closure to the outstanding disciplinary matters?
In this connection, the Chief Justice’s decision is to be welcomed as a step in the right direction.
Putting on hold the promotion list of senior ranks, albeit in a totally different context and for different reasons, is reminiscent of the situation that arose in November 2017 when Mr Joseph Harmon sent a letter to the PSC on behalf of the then President directing the Police Service Commission ‘that there be no consideration of promotions for members of the Guyana Police Force until further notice.’
At that time, the Chief Justice found that Harmon’s letter sent to the Commission was in flagrant disregard of the constitution, unlawful, null, void and of no effect.’
On this occasion, the Chief Justice granted an order instructing that the status quo at the GPF remain until the matter that was filed to challenge the PSC’s procedure for promotions is heard before her on January 12, 2021.
In the November 2017 scenario, Granger told the PSC that his instruction not to proceed with promotions was because of the ‘deep concern of the coalition administration that state security was imperiled’ and that he Granger, ‘had received many legitimate complaints by members of the PSC and aggrieved police officers of abuse and malpractice in the Guyana Police Force.’
We do not know if stirrings of this ‘deep concern about state security, complaints of abuse and malpractice in the GPF’ has influenced the actions of the GPF’s administration resulting in the current controversy over the promotion of Senior ranks from Senior Superintendent to Assistant Commissioner.
Between 2015 and 2020 twelve (12)of nineteen (19) ranks comprised the strength of the GPF at the rank of superintendent. Of the twelve, three (3) were on the 2021 promotion list to the rank of Assistant Commissioner while nine (9) were not promoted. It is among that nine there appears to be much disquiet.
While it is perhaps the succession line-up, if not competition that has triggered the controversy over promotions at the highest level of the GPF it is incumbent on the administration to address soonest, the seeming restlessness at the senior level of the GPF in the interest of the orderly and good governance of the organization.