GHRA flays Jagdeo over inaction on confirmation of Police Commissioner
-says acting appointments `non-specific political threat' to independence
Stabroek News
February 8, 2007

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The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) says it is unacceptable that Presid-ent Bharrat Jagdeo has taken a position recently that he is in no hurry to appoint a Commissioner of Police.

The GHRA in a press release yesterday noted that "all the top appointments in the administration of justice in Guyana are acting: the Director of Public Prosecu-tions, the Chancellor, the Chief Magistrate, the Com-missioner of Police along with five High Court judges and many of the court staff."

And according to the human rights body, "acting appointments to high office are frowned on in democratic societies because they represent a non-specific political threat to the independence of the office holder."

Referring to the inaction on appointing a police commissioner, the GHRA observed that similar inaction had robbed previous Commissioner Felix of two years of his time, in that case, by allowing bureaucratic wrangling to prevent him assuming office.

Prior to Felix, the GHRA said, the commissioner was allowed repeated extensions of his tenure in office despite questions about his effectiveness. Preventing effective leadership in a highly centralized and indeed overly hierarchical body such as the Guyana Police Force is guaranteed to render it ineffective, it contended.

"In such circumstances," the GHRA declared, "it is little wonder that the police force became further demoralized and the country went into criminal free fall."

The human rights body further argued that in the case of the Police Commissioner "the case is particularly unacceptable since the President had stated he had confidence in Mr. Greene, noting he was doing a good job."

"So why is he not being confirmed in office?, the GHRA asked, adding that it was not clear whether the shadow over Mr. Greene cast by the US government's withdrawal of his visa had been dispelled or it still hung over the situation.

According to the GHRA, it would be "puzzling if the US concerns about Mr. Greene would trigger misgivings in President Jagdeo, given his zeal to appoint (former NY Police Commission-er) Mr. Bernard Kerik whose indiscretions are well-documented for the world to see."

But in contrast to the drift and indecision about domestic appointments, the determination to appoint Kerik as a Presidential Advisor is particularly intriguing, the GHRA noted, since his strengths do not appear to coincide with Guyana's needs.

The GHRA contended that Kerik's success with the New York Police Department was in hands-on combating of street crime, and not in re-structuring a police force. In addition, it alleged that as a Police Advisor to re-structure the police force in Iraq he was a failure.

"The problem with action men like Kerik," GHRA posited, "is that when the money dries up the action stops and we're back to square one." The human rights body also asserted that "President Jagdeo's preference for a one-man show in the form of the controversial Kerik needs explaining in the context of Guyana's security needs."

The release noted that government's security policy is encapsulated in a 'Citizens' security programme' to be funded by a US$22M loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. The three objectives of this programme as stated on page 15 of the project document are:

"(a) identify, prevent and counteract risk factors and increase and promote protective factors in communities, families and individuals;

(b) strengthen the capabilities of the Ministry of Home Affairs, and

(c) strengthen social cohesion within communities and their preventative capacity."

According to the GHRA, the intention of this programme - originally set in train by Commissioner Felix - is to fundamentally re-orient the Guyana Police Force into a modern, intelligence-led, police service; turn the current ratio of 75% of the force engaged in clerical jobs and 25% operational on its head and outsource secretarial and office jobs to civilians; re-structure and simplify the rank system and prioritise policing with the community as a central, not a 'soft', police option.

However, while this programme is in keeping with the major recommendations of the Disciplined Services Commission Report, the GHRA contended that given Kerik's track record this programme was not an agenda to interest him.

Meanwhile, a matter of much disquiet among citizens is the ease with which the President dismissed concerns about Kerik's background, the GHRA stated. "It resurrects similar misgivings with the government's lack of enthusiasm for Commissioner Felix confronting organized narco-trafficking last year before he was hounded from office," the human rights body added.

It also noted that the Citizens' Security Programme has the potential to lay the foundation for profound improvements in the Guyana Police Force with obvious benefits for the rule of law in Guyana. But the major issue is whether the political will exists to support such change, the GHRA remarked, adding that the jury is still out.