Halted promotions list leaked: Officers hauled before CoI were on it

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The instructions by President David Granger to put all Police promotions on hold until further notice took a new twist on Saturday, when a copy of the list was leaked to the media. The list revealed that several senior officers who were hauled before the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the presidential assassination plot investigation are on that list.

A perusal of the list shows that some of the chosen ones included Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifton Hicken. He was tipped to be promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Police; while current Crime Chief, Senior Superintendent Wendell Blanhum had been lined up for Assistant Commissioner.

Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud

Head of Special Branch, Brian Eastman, was also listed to become a Senior Superintendent of Police; while Head of Major Crimes, Assistant Superintendent Mitchell Caesar had been recommended for Deputy Superintendent.

The Commission of Inquiry was ordered by President David Granger back in July, to investigate the investigations into an alleged plot to have him assassinated. According to the Terms of Reference, the CoI would investigate the Guyana Police Force’s exercise of due diligence when it investigated Andriff Gillard’s claim that he was offered $7 million by businessman Nizam Khan to assassinate President Granger.

Over the course of the CoI, a number of officers were summoned and even upbraided for their work during the investigation. Besides the senior officers, junior officers were also criticised by Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe, who was appointed by the President.

Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum had appeared before the Commissioners and said on March 29, 2017, he received a call from the Public Security Ministry informing him of the alleged plot. The caller, a female, told him that Gillard was at the Ministry making the accusation. He related that he immediately made contact with Divisional Commander Clifton Hicken.

He further stated that he summoned head of the Major Crime Unit, Mitchell Caesar, and the interviewee, Gillard, who related the alleged plot and an investigation was subsequently launched. A 17-page statement was taken from Gillard and investigations progressed.

Blanhum related that because of the nature of the allegation, a decision was taken to have the Major Crime Unit investigate the matter, and he added that he received several reports of Gillard frustrating the investigation.

He also related that he did not find it strange that the men were released less than 24 hours following the commencement of the investigation. Slowe and Blanhum clashed when the CoI Commissioner asked him why the matter was not being treated as treason, but he explained that the offence was treated as incitement to commit murder although the President was involved, citing that he relied on facts and not feelings.

When it was Hicken’s turn to appear before Slowe, he too clashed with the former Assistant Commissioner of Police. Slowe had upbraided Hicken, noting that the failure to question Gillard on March 29 was a dereliction of duty.

In response to this accusation, Hicken said he was not allowed to get involved in matters involving CID. According to Hicken, all he had to do was verify that the right individual was being escorted to CID, a task he fulfilled. This did not sit well with Slowe.

A report in the State media had alleged that the list had contained officers who were unfit for promotion. This had been used as an excuse for the President’s move. But in the wake of the revelation that officers currently under pressure at the CoI are actually part of this “unfit” list, questions are being raised whether a plot is afoot.

During a recent press conference, former Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said the recent directive shows that the Government has its own plans. Tying the letter to the CoI, he had likened it to a witch-hunt aimed at getting rid of certain characters. The blocking of the promotion list, he had posited, just tied into those plans.

Earlier in the week, Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Omesh Satyanand, had made known that after a meeting with the other Commissioners, it was decided that they were going to adhere to the order to halt all promotions until further notice.

Even the Chairman had expressed concern that halting the entire promotion process would be a blow to senior officers. He had noted that these officers have invested time and energy in building a career at the Guyana Police Force and were expecting their just reward.

But noting that this was the first time a sitting President had issued such a directive to the Commission, he had called for some clarity and justification as to the circumstances that led to making such a decision.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon, in a letter dated July 27, 2017, wrote to the PSC informing them that the President directed that there be no consideration of promotion for members of the Guyana Police Force until further notice and should be implemented immediately.

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