Stalled Police, Fire Service promotions not affecting operations – Minister Benn

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Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn said that the stalled promotions at the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) have not affected the operations of the two entities.

The Minister made the comment following questions from the media on Monday.

Benn noted that when it comes to the GPF, the promotions of persons above the rank of Sergeant rests on the appointment of the Police Service Commission (PSC).

According to Benn, only the PSC can resolve the issue of the promotion list that the GPF had approved and sent up. In the case of the GFS, however, he noted that there is no final list and the service is justified in wanting to screen a person’s job performance before promoting them.

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn (Ministry of Home Affairs photo)

“The Fire Service, by some sleight of hand, the list that was being considered and was under review, that information was passed out. There’s no final list at the Fire Service. And particularly, persons being considered for promotions have to be screened in relation to their job performance. Couldn’t be any other way,” he said.

The Minister noted that in both the GFS and the GPF, the operations have not been affected because promotions have been put on hold. As he put it, “if anyone is willing to default on his responsibilities because he is not getting a promotion, we’ll have to deal with that.”

The PSC was suspended by President Dr Irfaan Ali on June 16, 2021, after he had followed the constitutional process involving each member being asked to show cause why he should not be suspended. This decision of the President was communicated to each member of the PSC by a letter bearing that date which was dispatched and received.

Despite this suspension, however, the PSC went ahead on June 28 and released a list of officers it deemed worthy of promotion for 2020. The list was released not long after acting Chief Justice Roxanne George dismissed a case brought by Senior Superintendent of Police Calvin Brutus, who was seeking to block the promotion list on the basis that he was being bypassed for promotion by the PSC.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government has, however, since rejected this list as unlawful and illegal, with Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, issuing a statement reminding the PSC that it is suspended and as such, cannot issue any list.

“The said decision of the President can only be rescinded, revoked, set-aside, or reversed by the President himself, or by a court of competent jurisdiction. No person, let alone, a constitutional commission, will be allowed to become judge, jury, and executioner in our constitutional democracy. The rule of law simply does not permit it,” Nandlall had said.

September 16, 2021, has meanwhile been set aside for High Court Judge Gino Persaud to rule on whether President Ali is immune from being named as a party to the case filed by the PSC challenging its June 16 suspension by the Head of State. The imminent ruling has its origin in an application filed by Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, who is asking that the President be struck out as a respondent.

When it comes to the GFS, controversy erupted last month when several officers were removed from potentially being in line for promotion because of disciplinary infractions that were on their records.

In fact, it was reported last month that these disaffected officers had retained a lawyer, Eusi Anderson, to write to the acting Fire Chief Kalamadeen Edoo directing him to send the list of officers eligible for promotion to the Home Affairs Ministry. The Fire Chief has never confirmed receipt of any letter to this effect.