After devoting over 50 years of his life to serving Guyana, Justice Cecil Kennard is disheartened with the manner in which Government is coercing him to retire from his post as Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
During an exclusive interview with Guyana Times on Tuesday, the PCA Chairman explained that he was initially only given practically 36 hours’ notice via a letter sent to his office while he was on vacation to step down from his position.
“On December 29, I was on a short vacation with my family in Antigua when I received a phone call from my secretary that she had received on that day a letter which was written on behalf of the President indicating that the President directed he send me this letter indicating that my services will end on December 31,” he explained.
Justice Kennard said he was “shocked and upset” upon receiving that information as he had no prior indication that his service was going to be brought to an end. He also contended that the time frame in which Government gave him to retire was unfair, especially for a senior officer of his capacity.
The PCA Chairman said he immediately made contact with Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, who pleaded ignorance about the letter.
According to Justice Kennard, Ramjattan promised to look into the matter.
“On January 4, I received a telephone call indicating that I have been granted an extension and that a letter will follow. To this date, I have not received a letter, they said the letter would indicate the extension period. I then read in the press that my services will be brought to an end at the end of February,” he explained.
Justice Kennard contended that the extension granted is rather unfair on a number of grounds, one being the bulk of work to be completed before he leaves.
“I have a lot to do, I have to prepare my annual report, I have a lot of files to deal with and I was expecting that I would be given some reasonable time at least until the end of March to complete my work,” he explained.
The former Chancellor pointed out that having been in the legal system for a number of years, he developed a policy of not leaving unfinished work for his successor.
“To give me 36 hours to vacate is very shocking and even the two months extension is not fair to me because the annual report will take a lot of time to prepare… I am very disturbed and upset that having served this country for 50 years to be given such a short notice,” he emphasised.
Even more shocking, Justice Kennard pointed out, is that Government is yet to formally indicate to him its reasons for wanting him to retire.
He highlighted that no reason has thus far been given expect from what he read in the media attributed to Minister Ramjattan.
Ramjattan told the opening of the annual Police Conference that the PCA Head was asked to retire because of his age.
“I think it’s age. He’s almost over 80 and the President indicated to me that he sent him a letter and he would be removing [him], at this stage, by the end of February,” Ramjattan said.
But Justice Kennard believes that age is not a practical reason for asking someone to retire as age does not render someone incompetent or incapable of executing his/her duties.
“Is age a criterion for getting rid of a person? There are a lot of politicians around my age and they are still serving therefore if there is an age policy, we should rid get of all the old people and let the young people take over. I have no problem with that,” he stated.
Dr David Hinds, a political commentator and Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) – one of the smaller parties in the coalition Government – had posited that an “unhealthy precedence” is being set in this matter. “In a country that is “woefully short of competent people to staff its expanding bureaucracy, we should not be in the business of firing people simply because they are getting old,” he reasoned.
But despite his grievances, Justice Kennard does not intend to challenge Government’s desire to have him vacate office.
“I don’t intend to make myself a fool. I don’t want to appear that I am fighting to keep the job. That is not my policy and I wouldn’t resort to any means to remain in office,” he stated.
Justice Kennard said all he is asking is that government grants him until March month-end so he can complete his work. The Public Security Minister had disclosed that the search for a new PCA Chairman would be the responsibility of the Ministry of the Presidency.
The former Chancellor, who is a recipient of the Order of Roraima (OR), studied Law in the United Kingdom’s prestigious Lincoln’s Inn. He returned in 1962 to open a private practice in Berbice, from where he hails. In 1965 he was appointed State Counsel (prosecutor) in the Director of Public Prosecutions Chambers, before being elevated to senior State Counsel in 1968. He also served as the Guyana Police Force’s legal advisor.
Kennard served in the Court of Appeal before becoming Chief Justice, serving from 1995 to 1996. He then served as Chancellor of the Judiciary from 1996 to 2002, when he left the Judiciary to take up his position at the PCA. He has been PCA Chairman ever since. (Guyana Times)