President did not breach constitution in appointing Hicken as Top Cop – AG
By Kurt Campbell
Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, Tuesday Night said the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) was bluffing in its threat to take the state to court over the appointment of Clifton Hicken as the Police Commissioner (ag).
The Attorney General said President Irfaan Ali did not breach the Constitution by choosing Hicken as Police Commissioner, emphasising that no Court or Judge can fault the President over his choice.
Hicken, a substantive Assistant Commissioner who was performing the duties of Deputy Commissioner, will now be performing the duties of Police Commissioner effective today, March 30.
When the appointment was made public two days ago the PNC/R said it will move to the Court on the basis that it was done without consultation with the Opposition Leader and the Police Service Commission (PSC).
But President Ali has already responded to the PNC/R’s concerns, saying the doctrine of necessity allowed a legal cloak for him to make the appointment.
And the Attorney General supported this notion during his weekly ‘Issues in the News’ commentary aired on his Facebook page.
The Constitution provides for the appointment of a Commissioner of Police to be made by the President in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and the Chairperson of the Police Service Commission (PSC).
Joseph Harmon resigned from the post of Opposition Leader in January 2022 and the APNU+AFC Coalition has not replaced him. With the Commissioner of Police (ag) Nigel Hoppie going off into pre-retirement leave, the President moved ahead to appoint Hicken to act in the position.
“It is no fault of the government or President that there is no Leader of the Opposition and no Police Service Commission”
“The Police Force cannot be headless…the President can’t abdicate his responsibility and allow the police force to be without an administrative head. The law will justify a President making the appointment even though those with whom he has to consult are not available,” Nandlall argued.
He supported the President’s reasoning that the doctrine of necessity justifies his appointment of Hicken.
“The bodies or agencies with which the President is required to consult are not available… it cannot be the law that the process must grind to a halt.”
Further, Nandlall said the argument that the appointment ought to have gone to someone else would not stand since the President used his prerogative powers to appoint Hicken.
“The choice as to who is to become Commissioner of Police is a choice that lies exclusively with the President and in exercise, he is to comply with a process which is to consult with the Leader of the Opposition, not agreement… that has nothing to do with choice.
“Latitude of choice cannot be circumscribed. The process is regulated but the power to choose is not circumscribed.”
Nandlall reiterated that there are no legal consequences to the decision of the President.
He recalled that former President David Granger did the same thing when he appointed Leslie James as Commissioner of Police.
“Based on my recollection, James was not the most senior, it was argued at the time that there were three or four officers more experienced than James but he was chosen by Granger as he was entitled to do.”
“There is no requirement to allow the most senior to be chosen. Seniority and meritocracy are not the same things,” the Attorney General posited.
The AG congratulated Hicken and said he has served the force with distinction for many years where he held several senior positions.
“Hicken headed several divisions across the country and from all indications and evidence available he has acquitted himself with a high degree of professionalism,” Nandlall said.
His commendations were supported by four former Police Commissioners, including Nigel Hoppie from whom Hicken is taking over.