Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nanlall has defended the President’s decision to move ahead with the appointment of Assistant Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken to act as Police Commissioner in the absence of consultation with the Opposition Leader and the Police Service Commission.
Appearing on his weekly tv show, Issues in the News, the Attorney General said in the absence of an Opposition Leader and in the absence of a Police Service Commission, he believes the President has acted lawfully to appoint Hicken to act in the position.
“A President can’t abdicate his responsiblity and can’t allow the Police Force that is responsible for the national and domestic security of the country to be without an administrative head. Therefore, the law will justify a President making an appointment even though those with whom he has to consult are not available for consultation”, AG Nandlall said.
The President has appointed Hicken as Acting Police Commissioner and not to the substantive position of Police Commissioner. The People’s National Congress has threatened legal action, pointing out that the Constitution is clear on the process for the appointment of a Police Commissioner and Deputies. The PNC has also raised concern about the most senior Officer in the Force, substantive Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Williams being bypassed by his junior Officer to act as Police Commissioner.
Article 211 (6) of the Constitution references the holder of the Office of Deputy Police Commissioner to be next in seniority in the Police Force after the Police Commissioner.
But Attorney General Nandlall is of the view that with no Opposition Leader and no Police Service Commission in place, the President needed to act.
“Currently, you do not have a Leader of the Opposition, and you don’t have a Police Service Commission. It is no fault of the Government or the President that there is no Leader of the Opposition. It’s no fault of the Government or the President that there is no Police Service Commission because the appointment of the Police Service Commission comes through a process which again involves consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and there is no Leader of the Opposition”, Nandlall said.
On the issue of the Police Service Commission, the Parliamentary Committee on appointments in December 2021 nominated four persons to be considered for the Police Service Commission. There was no action by the President on the nominations.
The Constitution also states that the Chairman of the Commission is named following consultations between the President and the Opposition Leader. The office of Opposition Leader only became vacant at the end of January. There were no moves for any consultation between the two on the position of Police Service Commission Chairman before that resignation.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall said the Police Force cannot be headless.
“Mr. Nigel Hoppie who was acting in the Office of the Commissioner of Police, his tenure has come to an end. The Police Force cannot be headless. The Police Commissioner is the person who has overall management and superintence over the Guyana Police Force and he is responsible for the day to day management and superintendence of the Guyana Police Force. Therefore, you cannot have a Police Force without a person performing those functions”.
Deputy Commissioner Hoppie performed the functions of Police Commissioner following the retirement of Leslie James as Commissioner of Police. Hoppie was never appointed Acting Police Commissioner, since the process to make such an appointment is the same as the one to make the appointment for the substantive position, legal experts have pointed out.
President Irfaan Ali has said he has acted out of necessity in his decision to appoint Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken as Acting Police Commissioner. He has not explained why the most senior Officer in the Force was bypassed for the position.