GCCI calls for Hicken to be appointed substantive Top Cop

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Acting Top Cop, Clifton Hicken

 

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is calling for Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifton Hicken to be appointed as the substantive Commissioner of Police, noting that it has had strong working relations with him.

Last week, President Dr Irfaan Ali, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, appointed Hicken to act in the office of Commissioner of Police. He takes over from acting Top Cop Nigel Hoppie, who has since proceeded on pre-retirement leave.

While the GCCI extended congratulations to Hicken on his new designation, it called for his “full appointment as Commissioner of Police through the due process prescribed in law.” The GCCI said it believes that Hicken can wholly serve and function as the Commissioner of Police permanently.

The Private Sector body said that it looks forward to the process being undertaken at the earliest possible time with the cooperation of all the necessary parties.

Moreover, it said that it is looking forward to continuing its working relations with Hicken and anticipates consideration of its appeal for him to be made the substantive head of the Guyana Police Force (GPF). According to the GCCI, the corporate community will continue to support the work of the Police “so that we can build a stronger and safer society”. His appointment took effect on March 30.

Prior to his appointment as Deputy Commissioner with responsibility for Operations in August 2020, Hicken was seconded to the Department of Citizenship in 2019 under the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government. Known for his dynamic style of management, he was also popular during his reign as Commander of A and B Divisions and was well known for his outreaches into communities and interactions with members of the public.

While many are in support of Hicken’s ascension to acting Police Commissioner, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) – the largest party in the APNU/AFC coalition – has threatened to challenge the constitutionality of his appointment.

Acting Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken
Besides arguing that Hicken was not next in line, the PNCR said that Article 211 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana requires that there be meaningful consultation between the President, Opposition Leader, and Chairperson of the Police Service Commission (PSC) on the appointment of the Top Cop.

Guyana has been without an Opposition Leader since January when former Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon resigned from the role. PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton, who was elected to the helm of the party in December 2021, is yet to be appointed a parliamentarian.

With there being no Opposition Leader and Chairman of the PSC, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, noted that there was no one for the President to consult with on the appointment of the Police Commissioner.

“It’s no fault of the Government or the President that there is no Leader of the Opposition. It’s no fault of the Government or the President that there is no Police Service Commission because the appointment of the Police Service Commission comes through a process that, again, involves consultations with the Leader of the Opposition, and there is no Leader of the Opposition,” he said.

According to him, President Ali acted lawfully when he went ahead and appointed an acting Top Cop in the absence of those he has to consult with since the Guyana Police Force cannot be left headless.

He added, “The Police Commissioner is the person who has overall management and superintendence over the Guyana Police Force. He is responsible for the day-to-day management and superintendence of the Guyana Police Force. Therefore, you cannot have a Police Force without a person performing those functions. In that scenario, a President cannot abdicate his responsibility and can’t allow the Police Force that is responsible for the national and domestic security of the country to be without an administrative head”.

Considering this, he reasoned that provisions in the law, specifically the doctrine of necessity, could be activated to allow for procedures to be undertaken in instances where there is an impossibility to comply with legal requirements.

The Attorney General said that the President was only required to consult with the Opposition Leader and the PSC, but the choice is his – exclusively – to make.
He explained, “The choice of who is to be the Commissioner of Police is one that lies exclusively with the President. In the exercise of that choice, he is to comply with a process… to consult with the Leader of the Opposition, not agree but consult, and to consult with the Chairperson of the Police Service Commission. That has nothing to do with choice. The choice remains that of the President”.

According to the Attorney General, no one can substitute the President’s choice – not even a Judge. He explained that while there could be political consequences based upon the Head of State’s choice, there was no legal consequence. The Legal Affairs Minister reminded that former President David Granger had similarly exercised his power to choose when he appointed Leslie James, who was at the time, not the most senior officer in the Police Force, as Police Commissioner.

“But President Granger was entitled to do so since there is no rule or provision that requires the most senior officer to be chosen as Top Cop,” Nandlall said.

He noted that while the PNCR has objected to Hicken’s appointment, its coalition partner – the Alliance for Change (AFC) via its Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, who is a former Public Security Minister, seems to have accepted the appointment.

During an interview with an online media outlet, Ramjattan pointed out that the Police Force needed a leader and Hicken would “serve properly”.