Clifton Hicken’s appointment case: AG asks for APNU/AFC Chief Whip to pay $3M in legal costs

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Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones (left) Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC on Thursday sent a letter to APNU/AFC Chief Whip Christopher Jones’ lawyer, Roysdale Forde, SC proposing a $3M in court cost following Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, SC that President Dr Irfaan Ali did not violate the Constitution when he appointed Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifton Hicken to act as the country’s Police Commissioner.

APNU/AFC Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones had asked the High Court to nullify Hicken’s appointment, primarily on the ground that, prior to the appointment, the Head of State failed to “meaningfully consult” with the Opposition Leader as is required by the Constitution.

Police Commissioner (ag) Clifton Hicken

Forde was given seven days to respond to the $3M proposal.

When Hicken’s appointment took effect on March 30, the Office of the Opposition Leader was vacant following the resignation of Joseph Harmon on January 26. Aubrey Norton—Leader of the PNCR—was appointed Opposition Leader on April 13. The PSC was also not in being given that the life of the previous Commission expired on August 8, 2021. It was reconstituted on May 31.

In light of the unusual circumstances that confronted the President, Justice George, in dismissing Jones’s case, held that President Ali could not be faulted for moving ahead with the appointment because, at that time, there was no Opposition Leader with whom he is constitutionally required to consult. In the absence of an Opposition Leader and the PSC, she ruled that the Head of State acted “out of necessity”, in the interest of national security, adding that it was reasonable for him to take action in his “own deliberate judgement”.

Considering her findings, the Chief Justice concluded, “There could be no disregard of and thereby a breach of the requirement for meaningful consultation when it was impossible to so engage. [Jones] therefore, is relying on an impossibility to ground the claim of unconstitutionality…this application is vexatious and an abuse of the process of the court.”

In the end, she dismissed Jones’s application, declaring that Hicken was appointed lawful. Accordingly, all actions taken by the acting Police Commissioner, including the recent promotion of dozens of junior Police ranks, were saved. Jones was ordered to pay court costs, to the respondents, namely, Nandlall, and Hicken, to be assessed, if not agreed upon by August 31.