Hicken was appointed acting Top Cop to fill ‘vacuum’ in police leadership

… Room for consultations with Leader of Opposition, Police Service Commission now in place

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Commissioner of Police Clifton Hicken (ag.) was appointed to prevent a vacuum in the leadership of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), and his appointment was made by President Dr. Irfaan Ali, given the absence of a Leader of the Opposition and the Police Service Commission (PSC) at the time.

But given that there is now a Leader of the Opposition and a PSC in place, the President is seeking to still fulfill the constitutional requirement for consultation in cementing the appointment.

Letters between members of government and members of the opposition, seen by the News Room, explain the circumstances that led to Hicken’s appointment.

According to a letter sent to Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira on June 29, 2022, Hicken’s appointment was made after Nigel Hoppie, who was performing the functions of Commissioner of Police, proceeded upon pre-retirement leave on March 30, 2022.

Given that there was no person holding the post of Leader of the Opposition, nor were any members appointed to the PSC at the time, the President appointed Hicken to act in the position.

“… President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali considered it his constitutional duty to appoint Mr. Clifton Hicken, to act in the Office of Commissioner of Police with effect from the 30th day of March 2022, rather than leave a vacuum in the command and superintendence of the Guyana Police Force,” Minister Teixeira wrote.

In usual circumstances, as per Article 211 (2) of Guyana’s Constitution, the President is required to meaningfully consult with the Opposition Leader before appointed a substantive Commissioner of Police.

The President is also required to consult with the Chairperson of the PSC, after the Chairperson has consulted with other members of the Commission.

Bishop Patrick Findlay was recently appointed PSC Chairperson and Minister Teixeira’s letter further noted that President Ali has conducted and concluded meaningful consultations with the Findlay, on the substantive appointment of Hicken.

And now, the President is engaging in meaningful consultations with the Opposition Leader.

Opposition Parliamentarian Roysdale Forde SC, in a letter dated July 4, 2022, questioned the President’s decision to appoint Hicken as acting Top Cop.

The Opposition Leader, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Slowe and Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones have also written to the Chief Justice Roxane George seeking urgent hearings regarding, inter alia, the appointment of Clifton Hicken as the acting Commissioner of Police.

Attorney General and the Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall SC, in a letter dated July 8, 2022, also explained the circumstances that forced President Ali’s appointment of Hicken.

The Attorney General also explained that the President is now seeking consultations with the recently constituted bodies, as required by the constitution, to allow for Hicken to be substantively appointed as Commissioner of Police.

Given that the series of correspondences between members of government and the opposition signal the initiation of the consultative process, the Attorney General has reiterated a request for the Opposition’s opinion, in writing, by July 15, 2022.

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