Norton asks High Court to quash President’s appointment of Police Service, Integrity Commissions

0
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

 

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton has filed a Fixed Date Application (FDA), asking the High Court to quash the recent appointments of the Chairmen and members of the Police Service and Integrity Commissions who were sworn in before President Dr Irfaan Ali on May 31.

The Head of State had forged ahead with the appointment of the constitutional commissions notwithstanding Norton’s threats to take legal action if the Government went ahead with the process without completing the consultation process as required by the Constitution.

Norton had reportedly failed to attend a meeting to discuss constitutional matters with the President on May 30, despite being invited to the meeting via a letter sent to Congress Place, Sophia, Greater Georgetown. President Ali had not only described Norton’s action as regrettable and disappointing but also a “demonstration of immaturity”.

In that letter, the Leader of the Opposition was asked to specify his additional contributions to the ongoing consultations for the appointment of several constitutional commissions.

The new members of the Police Service Commission (PSC) are: Attorney-at-Law Mark Conway, businessmen Ernesto Choo-a-Fat, and Hakeem Mohammed, and Pastor Patrick Findlay, who will serve as Chairman.

Meanwhile, the Integrity Commission (IC) has Demerara Bank Corporate Secretary Chandra Gajraj as Chairperson, along with Mohamed Haniff, lawyer and former Solicitor General Kim Kyte-Thomas, Hardesh Tiwari, and Reverend Wayne Chris Bowman as members.

Norton, who is also the leader of the PNCR—the largest party in the APNU/AFC coalition—complained that he was not afforded a “reasonable opportunity” to express a considered opinion on the matter of consultation with respect to the appointments of the PSC and IC.

He deposed that President Ali did not provide adequate information to him in respect of the President’s rationale, reasons, and/or grounds having regard to the respective persons’ suitability and/or competence for appointment to the respective public offices.

Against his backdrop, he argued that the spirit and letter of the Constitution in respect of consultation and meaningful consultation were violently violated by the President.

The politician, among other things, is seeking an order quashing the appointment of Findlay and Gajraj as the Chairmen of the PSC and IC, respectively, and an order declaring that all actions taken by commissions are null, void, and are of no force and effect.

Pending the hearing of his application, the Opposition Leader through Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde is requesting an injunction prohibiting Findlay and Gajraj as well as the commissions’ members from exercising any of the functions, duties, obligations, and/or powers vested in them.

He is seeking another injunction barring the PSC’s Chairman from engaging in meaningful consultation with the President for the appointment of a Police Commissioner, and the appointment or appointments of Deputy Commissioner of Police until the FDA is determined.

He also took issue with the President’s appointment of Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifton Hicken as the acting Commissioner of Police, arguing that it was unilateral and not in keeping with Article 211 of the Constitution.

Given that the life of the last PSC expired on August 9, 2021, and there has been no Chairman of the Public Service Commission and no Public Service Commission constituted under the Constitution, Norton argued that as of June 29, the Chairman of the PSC and the President could not have lawfully engaged in any consultation as required by Article 211 (1) of the Constitution.

“For the [PSC] to exercise any of the powers, functions, and or duties conferred on it by the Constitution, it is a mandatory requirement that upon the constitution of the Police Service Commission subsequent to an expiration of the life and or term of the appointment of previous members of the Police Service Commission, that a Chairman of the Public Service Commission be so appointed and be made a member of the Police Service Commission,” he contended.

Moreover, Norton submitted that Findlay is a politician, was a candidate for the PPP at the 2011 and 2015 national elections and was appointed as Permanent Secretary by that very party.

Noting that the Constitution contemplates that the PSC is not politicalised, he pointed out that up to May 2021, Findlay identified himself as a member and supporter of the PPP/C.

In addition, the Opposition Leader has made an application for the hearing of his FDA to be expedited, costs and any such further or other relief the court deems just.

In May, Opposition Chief Whip and PNC Executive Member Christopher Jones asked the High Court to find that President Ali’s appointment of Hicken as acting Top Cop was unconstitutional.

Then on June 28, immediate past Chairman of the PSC, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Slowe petitioned the High Court to block the recently reconstituted PSC from promoting or publishing a promotions list of officers of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) until his challenge to the President’s June 2021 suspension of the PSC is determined.