PSC now willing to settle issue outside of court – AG
Challenges to Police promotions
Engagements will be facilitated between the Police Service Commission (PSC) and aggrieved Police officers who have challenged the 2020 promotion of ranks, through a process that is independent of the judicial system.
Chairman, Retired Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Slowe has signalled his willingness to settle the ongoing challenge via this route and this was shared by Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall as the matter continued on Tuesday before Chief Justice Roxane George at the High Court.
The matter was adjourned and will come up again on February 5, 2021. On January 15, the AG is expected to meet with Slowe and the other parties as part of efforts to resolve the issue.
The matter would have started when Senior Superintendent Calvin Brutus complained to the High Court that he is being bypassed for promotion to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police, even though he was recommended for promotion by the Commissioner of Police.
In his claim, he stated that he was being overlooked for promotion owing to frivolous allegations of indiscipline levelled against him for which he has not been called to defend himself. Chief Justice George had granted an order on December 31, blocking the promotion of several Police ranks to Assistant Commissioner by PSC until hearing complaints of discrimination levelled by Brutus.
Speaking with Guyana Times following Tuesday’s proceedings, Nandlall said more officers are likely to file applications while some are joining the current case. He regarded their grievances as important, since it is coming from within the higher level of the Force.
“The case is getting bigger…it started with one application filed by Mr Brutus. Now, it has expanded to about seven and I’m told by the lawyers that another 20 more applications are likely to be filed. I’m also aware that there are a number of Police persons who are joining the filed proceedings…It cannot be in the best interest of our country for those officers in those high positions to have the kind of grievances and disputes which have become evident. It is my hope and expectation that our efforts yield success,” he explained.
He explained that while some Police officers are complaining that they’re being denied promotions unfairly, there are others who are frustrated that their promotions are being held back because of the filed proceedings.
“The Chief Justice, I think, did the correct thing and joined all the parties. Significantly, I was able to report that I commenced a process of engagement with the Police Service Commission and all the other parties in effort to bring them to the table to try to settle the matter. It is of my concerned view that this matter is of grave importance. The issues involved are of fundamental importance and the persons involved are of even greater importance. We are speaking of the very top echelon of our Police Force,” the Attorney General contended.
Nandlall contended that it is in the best interest to settle the matter as soon as possible, noting “I already read that the one side is saying that this matter will go all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice. Now, that is unfortunate because we’re speaking there of several years of litigation.”
According to Brutus, he and five other officers, among them Senior Superintendents Wendell Blanhum (Crime Chief); Ravindranauth Budhram; Errol Watts and Fazil KarimBaksh (Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit) were recommended for promotion to Assistant Commissioner by the Top Cop.
He said the PSC bypassed him and KarimBaksh when the decision was taken to promote Blanhum, Budhram, Watts, Edmond Cooper, Phillip Azore, and Kurleigh Simon to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police.
He said the pending allegations of indiscipline were an irrelevant consideration in the circumstances of his promotion, since he is entitled to the presumption of innocence more so in light of the failure of the PSC to conclude all investigations expeditiously.
In his Fixed Date Application (FDA), Brutus said that it has been a practice for the PSC not to promote Police Officers with pending disciplinary complaints regardless of the nature or seriousness of such complaints.
In October 2019, Brutus stated that it was alleged by the Deputy Commissioner for Administration that he committed a breach of discipline. The PSC appointed Assistant Commissioner Royston Andries-Junor to investigate the allegation. But according to him, he was not served with a breach of discipline notice until October 2020, and the investigation has not progressed beyond this point. In a letter dated December 17, 2020, Brutus stated that he called on the PSC to ignore the allegations of indiscipline against him in considering his appointment to Assistant Commissioner of Police.
He complained that he further called on the PSC to be heard before any decision is taken to deny him the promotion. The PSC responded in a letter dated December 21, 2020, asserting its constitutional independence and citing its commitment in ensuring that investigations are concluded expeditiously, Brutus stated in his application before the High Court. But he claims that no meaningful attempt was made by the PSC to answer the allegations raised in his letter.
Brutus argued that the PSC committed an error of law and violated the principle of legality when it acted in a manner that was incompatible with his fundamental right to equality of treatment guaranteed under Article 149D of the Constitution of Guyana.
Also, he argued that the decision not to promote him in the circumstances is an act of punishment as the PSC has no good cause or reason to deny him a promotion.
Brutus is asking the court to grant an order overruling the PSC’s practice of not promoting officers with pending disciplinary matters. (G12)