PSC Chairman, Integrity Commission properly appointed – CJ rules

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Chief Justice (ag.) Roxane George on Tuesday ruled that Police Service Commission (PSC) Chairman, Patrick Findlay and the members of the Integrity Commission were properly appointed.

While delivering her ruling at the Demerara High Court in the challenge filed by Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton, she found that there was “sufficient” consultation between Norton and the President.

“… I have concluded that the applicant’s [Norton] contentions as to not been provided with sufficient information are without merit,” the Chief Justice said.

She further said that while the onus is primarily on the President to initiate the consultation process and to ensure that requirements are set, there is a corresponding onus on Norton  to reciprocate since “one hand cannot clap.”

Though Findlay was properly appointed as PSC chairman, the Chief Justice found that the PSC was not properly constituted given the absence of the chairman of the Public Service Commission.

As such, she said that Findlay could not have “properly engaged” with President Ali and other members of the Commission on the appointment of Clifton Hicken to act as Commissioner of Police.

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.

President Dr Irfaan Ali and other officials with members of the Integrity Commission (Photo: Office of the President/May 31, 2022)

However, the Chief Justice applied the de facto officer doctrine to uphold the decisions of the PSC, which also includes the recent promotion of several senior Police officers.

So it was ruled that Hicken’s appointment as ‘Top-Cop’ remains lawful.

Norton had filed an application at the Demerara High Court to quash the appointment of Findlay, which he said is “illegal, null, void and of no legal effect.”

As such, Norton is arguing that any consultation between the President and Findlay on the subject of the appointment of a Commissioner of Police of Guyana, is unconstitutional, null, void, and of no legal effect.

However, on August 11, the Chief Justice, while ruling in a challenge filed by APNU+AFC opposition, found that President Dr. Irfaan Ali did not breach the Constitution by choosing Clifton Hicken to act as Police Commissioner.

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

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.

Norton also challenged the appointment of the members of the Integrity Commissioner, arguing that President Dr Irfaan Ali breached the Integrity Commission Act and did not afford him “a reasonable opportunity to express a considered opinion on the subject of the consultation.”

The Chief Justice, however, ruled that the members of the Commission were properly appointed.

The Integrity Commission comprises Demerara Bank Corporate Secretary, Chandra Gajraj as Chairperson, along with attorney Mohamed Haniff, and former Solicitor General Kim Kyte-Thomas, Hardesh Tiwari and Chris Wayne Bowman.

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