LOOMING CONFLICT: Top Cop now reports to 2 bosses – Ramjattan and Felix
The Police Commissioner in his capacity as Chief Immigration Officer, now has two bosses to report to, since the ministerial responsibilities have been divided between Vice President and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan and Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix; a situation not catered for under the current laws of Guyana.
The hierarchical structure was made pellucid when the two Government functionaries testified before the Standing Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Committee Chairperson, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, informed the body that Ramjattan had in fact been invited to appear before the Committee since he was the substantive Minister.
Teixeira said he instead indicated, “There will be no need for an oral presentation from me since this mandate and function falls under the Minister of Citizenship.”
According to her, this was the reason, in part, why the Committee was probing to determine precisely the hierarchal structure with regard to the Commissioner of Police, since the relevant legislation makes accommodation for the Minister with substantive responsibility for security, which in this case is Ramjattan.
During the course of the deliberations, Minister Felix sought to assure the Members of the Committee that he does not in fact direct the Police Commissioner, but rather passes on information as is required.
Felix is adamant that he has never overstepped his boundaries, since other operational matters of the Guyana Police Force falls under the purview of the Minister with responsibility for Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.
Felix told the Committee members his relationship with the Guyana Police Force was merely tangential, since he would only have to interact with the Police Commissioner on matters related to immigration.
It was pointed out that under the laws of Guyana, the Police Commissioner reports to the substantive Minister with responsibility for Public Security and the arrangement now between the two Ministries essentially means that the Top Cop now has to report to two bosses, with the ultimate boss being the Commander-in-Chief, Head of State, President David Granger.
The Minister said, when necessary, he liaises with the Public Security Minister to “keep him in the loop.” This Felix said, ensures that there is no disturbance in the application of the law.
Committee Chair, Teixeira, sought to clarify the relationships between the bodies especially as it relates to information sharing and cited as an example for persons flagged on Interpol’s international watch list among others.
The Committee was told that this information is firstly shared at the level of Cabinet in its first tier, before being filtered down by the relevant subject Ministers.
Felix informed the Committee that the modus operandi regarding the framework between the two Ministries and the Police Commissioner has been in place since last year.
“So in other words you give instructions to the Commissioner of Police,” Teixeira asked of Felix, who responded saying, “I do not give instructions to the Commissioner of Police…Where necessary, I have to make contact with him, information is passed to him and he takes the requisite action.”
Teixeira was quick to point out that under the Immigration Act, the Police Commissioner of, as the Chief Immigration Officer, reports to the substantive Minister for Public Security, but in the new dispensation he now reports to two Ministers because of the separation of the departments and ministries.
Peoples’ Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament, Nigel Dharamlall, sought to grill the Minister and Vice President on the situation which he said poses a looming conflict, in addition to the onerous load sharing responsibilities.
Teixeira maintained that based on the explanations provided by the Police Commissioner, as Chief Immigration Officer he now has two bosses.
Felix, in attempting a clarification, told the Committee, “The subject Minister is the Minister of Public Security…in so far as the Department of Citizenship is concerned, where Immigration issues fall, I relate to the Commissioner of Police.
Teixeira who served as a former Home Affairs Minister, told Felix – himself a former Police Commissioner – that immigration matters invariably crosses over to other departments such as the Police’s Criminal Investigation Department and the Special Branch to which he responded, “I don’t get involved in matters which I know doesn’t concern me.”
She questioned who would give the order to execute searches, should a person be guilty of overstaying their time in Guyana, which falls under the ambit of immigration but would also require operational action on the part of the Police Force.
Felix continued to maintain that rather than instructing the Police Commissioner on any course of action, the information is merely passed on.
Teixeira explained that traditionally, the Commissioner of Police in his role as Chief Immigration Officer, reported to the Substantive Minister with responsibility for Public Security but this was not the case any longer since the hierarchical command has been split.
She was adamant that while the Commissioner of Police may now be reporting to two different Ministers on two different areas, “there is an overlap of the responsibilities.”
Felix contends however, “there is one boss in the Guyana Police Force…He does not have two bosses, he has a subject Minister (Public Security), the other Minister (Citizenship), who has come in, understands clearly his role.”
Felix said, as Minister of Citizenship it is understood that his role should never conflict with that of the Public Security Minister, “I know that very well and it wouldn’t occur under my watch where there is a conflict between who is in charge of the Guyana Police Force ministerially and who has a tangential relationship in relation to immigration issues… I stop where I know I need to stop.”