President’s directive to halt PSC promotions unconstitutional- Chief Justice rules

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The court has ruled in favour of an applicant that filed a legal action challenging a directive issued in the name of President David Granger to the Police Service Commission (PSC) for a hold to be placed on planned promotions this year.

The court has granted the declarations sought by the applicant and ordered the Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams to pay the applicant the sum of $200,000 as costs.

In a oral ruling, acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire said the applicant, Rajendra Jaigobin, was justified in the public interest and, therefore, he has ‘locus standi’. The AG had opposed Jaigobin’s application on the grounds that he had no ‘locus standi’ to institute the proceedings.

Jaigobin’s legal challenge was filed by former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall.

Upon the expiration of the life of the PSC, AG Williams contended that the court should no longer determine the matter because the life of the Commission had expired and the matter was no longer a live matter, that it was of academic importance only, and that the courts do not act in futility.

But the acting Chief Justice in her ruling said it spoke volumes that the AG did not defend the matter on the merits, but rather sought to hide behind legal arguments such as “locus standi” and “that the matter is of academic importance”. “It is clear that this issue is not of academic importance, but it is an issue of high constitutional importance,” the ruling added.

Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire

The court found that the letter sent by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon to the PSC on July 26 directing it to withhold work on the annual Police promotions was in flagrant disregard of the Constitution and was unlawful, null, void and of no effect.

The acting Chief Justice also expressed the hope that the PSC did not act upon the unconstitutional letter.

The ruling also pointed to the fact that only two years ago Minister Simona Broomes, another Government Minister, had issued similar directions to a service commission and although the Court with the consent of the AG had declared that that letter had been in violation of the Constitution, a similar palpable violation of the Constitution was repeated by another Minister.

The court noted that in the face of this flagrant disregard for the Constitution, which the State conceded two years ago, the State should have done the honourable thing and corrected the error rather than seek to defend these proceedings.

The court, therefore, concluded that the actions of Minister Harmon in writing that the President has directed that there be no consideration of promotion of Police Officers was a blatant disregard of Article 226 of the Constitution which insulates the PSC from influence and directions of any other person or authority, especially political directions.

A statement from the Ministry of the Presidency in August reported the President as saying that there have been many legitimate complaints by members of the PSC and aggrieved Police Officers of abuse and malpractice in the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and it was for this reason that he has asked for the promotion of Police Officers to be delayed.

“We are investigating the complaints, which have been made to us and we have asked the Police Service Commission to simply delay so that we can answer those queries and once those queries are satisfactorily answered, we will proceed. It’s no intention on my part to impede the work of the Commission,” the President had said.

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had condemned the President’s move, describing it as unconstitutional because the Constitution of Guyana prohibits instruction from anyone or authority to the PSC.

The three-year term of the PSC ended on September 4, 2017.

The President’s request came just after a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into an alleged plot to assassinate him revealed alleged and perceived shortcomings in the functioning of the Police Force.

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