No breach of Constitution: Hicken’s appointment as acting Top Cop legal

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President Dr. Irfaan Ali did not breach the Constitution by choosing Clifton Hicken to act as Police Commissioner, Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, ruled on Thursday at the conclusion of a legal battle initiated by the APNU+AFC opposition.

She refused to grant the orders sought to quash and declare the appointment as null and void.

“If the appointment process, as set out in the Constitution, was not followed then the court will be duty bound to so rule,” Justice George said.

But according to her legal analysis of the matter, the President’s full compliance with the Constitution was impossible because of circumstances beyond his control.

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

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

But the Chief Justice said in the absence of both an elected Opposition Leader and an appointed Chairman of the Police Service Commission at the time of Hicken’s appointment in March 2022, the President had to act to ensure there was a Commissioner of Police in place.

Bishop Patrick Findlay was recently appointed PSC Chairperson

“It could not be that the President should have been rendered incapable of discharging his functions to appoint a Commissioner of Police.

“In this sense, there was a necessity to act,” the Chief Justice ruled.

“This is a case of a necessity… to ensure that the unexpected lacuna… did not result in a situation that would have left the Guyana Police Force without a Commissioner,” Justice George further noted.

She did not consider appointing someone else to be anymore better in response to reasoning by the APNU+AFC that Paul Williams as the Deputy Commissioner should have been appointed to act as Police Commissioner.

“It cannot be declared that the appointment violates the Constitution.

“…nor can it be declared that there was no consultation between the President and the Opposition Leader.

“All was definitely not normal,” the Chief Justice said.

Hicken, a substantive Assistant Commissioner who was performing the duties of Deputy Commissioner, was appointed to perform the duties of Police Commissioner effective, March 30.

When the appointment was made public 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 had long responded to the PNC/R’s concerns, saying the doctrine of necessity allowed a legal cloak for him to make the appointment.

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.

The government has maintained that Hicken was appointed to prevent a vacuum in the leadership of the Guyana Police Force.

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