Following widespread criticisms over the appointment of civilians to head the Public Relations Department of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and an Opposition Member of Parliament submitting a plethora of questions to the National Assembly regarding this unit, acting Commissioner of Police Nigel Hoppie has explained that it was in keeping with recommendations made in 2019 by two United Kingdom (UK) media and communication consultants.
During the recently launched ‘Police and You’ live radio programme, the Top Cop defended the appointments of former Editor-in-Chief of the State-owned Guyana Chronicle, Mark Ramotar, as the Communications Director of the GPF, and radio broadcaster Stan Gouveia as the Deputy Communications Director back in February.
He disclosed that the UK consultants, Dr Joan Boyd and Susan Corbett, had recommended, among several other things, the civilianisation of the Guyana Police Force following a visit to Guyana back in 2019 as part of a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) mission.
“The appointment was in keeping with recommendations from a PR consultancy report that was done by some Irish consultants… There were several recommendations made, but…I know that one of the recommendations would have been that civilians occupy the upper echelons of the Public Relations Department. There are also recommendations for the configuration of the department, among other things…,” Commissioner Hoppie explained.
The two high-ranking UK Media Relations and Communications Specialists came to Guyana in January 2019 through the British High Commission here as part of the Police Force’s reform process.
They worked with the Police PR Department in efforts to advance that department’s capabilities in the disciplines of communication and Public Relations, as well as highlighting necessary departmental upgrades which would coincide with best practices of modern policing. A training was also held on Media Relations and Communications for members of the PR Department at the time.
The experts subsequently prepared and submitted a report with a series of recommendations, after assessing the capacity of the Force’s PR Department with the aim of advancing its communication and Public Relations capability, as well as highlighting necessary departmental upgrades which would coincide with best practices of modern policing.
According to Commissioner Hoppie during the radio programme on Tuesday evening, this report was handed over to Guyana in August 2019.
The Top Cop pointed out that the implementation of the recommendations is part of ongoing efforts to reform the Police Force.
“It’s part of our Strategic Plan 2019 through 2021, and we have five priority areas: performance, development of our people, operational priorities, infrastructure and partnership. So, as part of our strategic plan, the recommendation was made and it was adopted,” Hoppie stated.
However, questions were raised over the appointments of Ramotar and Gouveia. This is especially after the standard practice by which a serving member of the Force would assume responsibility for the organisation’s public relations.
In fact, prior to establishment of the rebranded Communications Unit, Assistant Commissioner Royston Andries-Junor served as the Public Relations Officer (PRO). Prior to him, the position was held by Senior Superintendent Jairam Ramlakhan.
Subsequently, Opposition Member of Parliament and Shadow Home Affairs Minister Geeta Chandan-Edmond submitted a plethora of questions to the National Assembly regarding the operations of the Force’s new Corporate Communications Unit.
Ramotar was Editor-in-Chief of the State-owned Chronicle newspaper for several years. He was also Editor of INews and the Guyana Times newspaper. He studied journalism at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in India where he won several awards, including for Best Graduating Student. He completed several media training programmes including with the UK-based Commonwealth Press Union (CPU). Ramotar has a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) as well as specialised training/certification in Project Management, Philosophy, Conflict Resolution and Digital Marketing.
Meanwhile, Gouveia brings with him almost three decades of broadcast journalism, having spent two-thirds of that time at the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation/National Communications Network Inc. Recently he is known as the “Hot Seat” host and up to December 2020, served as the Public Information Officer of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC). Mr. Gouveia holds qualifications in Communication Studies from the University of Guyana, and several certificates in journalism and healthcare.