By Svetlana Marshall
Police Service Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of Police (Ret’d), Clinton Conway said continued political interference in the Guyana Police Force would only result in its destruction.
In an interview with Village Voice Newspaper, Conway, who served the Guyana Police Force with distinction for 39 years, said while the Government, through the Home Affairs Ministry, is responsible for development of policies, it is the Commissioner of Police, who is responsible for operations.
“The Government or the Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for policies; the Commissioner is [responsible for] operations, it is written in Law. [But] now you find policies overriding operations; politicians getting involved in terms of the operations of the police but it shouldn’t be so,” the Police Service Commissioner said.
He said while the Guyana Police Force is performing “relatively well,” the involvement of politics in its operation is of major concern.
“There are people who are working against [Nigel] Hoppie – the Commissioner of Police (ag) – and when they want certain things done and Hoppie says no, they run to the politicians, and the politicians would direct Hoppie to do the biddings for those people,” the retired Assistant Police Commissioner explained.
He opined that because Hoppie wants to be confirmed as the Commissioner of Police he would “not rock the boat.”
According to Conway, it was political interference that led the Commission of Police (ag) to backpedal on his initial position, and recognize an “illegitimate” election of the Guyana Police Association.
On May 11, 2021, two separate elections were held for key offices within Guyana Police Association resulting in both Inspector Prim Narine and Inspector Rosanne Forde, being elected chairman.
The Commissioner of Police (ag) had nullified both elections, however, in a letter dated May 12, 2021 addressed to Forde, the current chairman, he said based on a review of the Police Act, Standing Orders, and legal advised received, the first election is now deemed valid.
“In my capacity as Commissioner of Police, I am now directing that the first elections held at 10:00h on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 be recognized as the valid and binding elections of office bearers to the Guyana Police Association and that the persons duly elected at those elections be recognized as the official holders of the offices to which they have been elected,” Commissioner Hoppie said in the letter.
Commissioner Hoppie’s decision has now resulted in Inspector Narine being identified as chairman-elect of the Police Association. However, Conway said the decision taken by the acting Police Commissioner was not based on his own volition.
“After he vitiated both elections, he was called to two government ministries, and pulled over the coals, and then he issued a statement and said the first one is legal and the other one is illegal. He went to Home Affairs, and he had to go to Legal Affairs,” the Police Service Commissioner told this publication.
The decision to recognize Inspector Narine as the Chairman-elect has resulted in major objection and condemnation from the Caribbean Federation of Police Welfare Associations (CFPWA). CFPWA has accused the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, Senior Superintendent Calvin Brutus of usurping the responsibility of the legitimate Chairman when he called an election without the knowledge of the sitting Chairman Inspector Forde.
“We are also concerned that the Acting Commissioner of Police Nigel Hoppie DSM on May 11th,
2021 declared both elections null and void then back paddled and accepted the results of an illegitimate election. The Federation is seriously concerned that a Commissioner of Police who must have some appreciation for the rule of law would acquiesce at a retrenchment of a legitimately elected body mandated to serve its three-year tenure. This is not our finest hour as long as this miscarriage of justice is accepted,” the Caribbean Police Federation had said in a statement.
He said the recognition of “the illegitimate” Guyana Police Association election is part of a scheme to dismantle the current Police Service Commission, and replace it with a Commission would heed to the political wishes of a selective few.
Earlier this month, Conway along with the current Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Ret’d) Paul Slowe along with seven others were charged with conspiracy to defraud the Guyana Police Force of approximately $10M.
It is alleged that the two retired Assistant Police Commissioners along with Claude Whittaker; former Senior Superintendent George Fraser and former Senior Superintendent, Mark Gilbert were paid $10M to facilitate a review of the Guyana Police Force’s Standing Orders, though the Orders were reviewed by the Strategic Planning Unit of the Guyana Police Force between July 2018 and March 2019.
On May 19, 2021, Prime Minister Mark Phillips, in a letter, gave Conway and Slowe up until May 31, 2021 to show cause why they should not be removed from the Police Service Commissioner.
But Conway told Village Voice News that the charge is not only trumped up but is intended to remove he and Slowe from the Police Service Commission.
“We didn’t engage in any agreement, the [then] Commissioner decided that the Force will pay us a stipend but not $10M,” Conway said while he refuted the allegation. For the record, he said none of the members of the five-member team received $1M or more.
He is convinced that the sole intention of the charge is to discredit them so as to facilitate him and Slowe’s removal from the Police Service Commission.
Explaining the nexus between the Police Service Commission and the Guyana Police Association, Conway pointed out that the police association is among organisations that identifies nominees to sit on the Police Service Commission.
Conway said at the opportune time, he will take legal actions against the State and the Guyana Police Force for defaming his character. “Even if I have to go to the CCJ, I will,” he told this newspaper.
In a separate interview with Travis Chase, a journalist attached to on HGP Nightly News, Conway pointed out too that the charge was instituted by the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) – an organization which is headed by Fazil Karimbaksh, who was sanctioned by the Police Service Commission for sexual misconduct within the Force.
“We were investigating an allegation against him, where three female police recruits alleged sexual harassment,” Conway disclosed. He noted that Assistant Commissioner Simon McBean, based on an investigation conducted, recommended charges be laid against Karimbaksh under the Police Discipline Act.
Conway said the Police Service Commission concurred, however, Karimbaksh challenged the case in court but lost. As such, the Commission is proceeding with the charge against Karimbaksh.
He said there were other allegations of sexual harassment made against the SOCU Head.
“There was an investigation conducted by a Deputy Commissioner against Karimbaksh, where 11 female trainees made allegations of sexual harassment against Karimbaksh. I saw the files, I read the files, the investigation was damning but apparently that was swept under the carpet,” Conway contended.
He noted that the Police Service Commission also took disciplinary action against Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Calvin Brutus, however, he too, took the Commission to Court and the decision is pending.
“The position is put trumped up charges against me and Paul Slowe and when you put trumped up charges against me and Paul Slowe, they will fight to remove us from the Police Service Commission. So there will be no Service Commission and as a result, we can’t do anything; our term finishes in August, and then they will form a new Service Commission, which will be supportive of them, and they promote, who they want to promote…a lot of incompetence,” he posited.
However, he made it clear that once the Commission wins the case, in which Brutus brought, it will take disciplinary actions against him, Karimbaksh and all others would have acted contrary to the Force’s Standing Orders. Further, he told Village Voice Newspaper, that any officer, who is under investigation or is being disciplined, will not be recommended for promotion.
Conway iterated that continued political interference in the Guyana Police Force would only erode the public’s conference in the Guyana Police Force. For emphasis, he said there should be no political interference or influence in the operations of the Force. Such, he warned will only destroy the Guyana Police Force.
“I feel that politicians should stick to the policies, and let the police do the operational work,” he emphasized.
He said there are good men and women in the force, but their work is being affected by the politics. “There are a lot of disgruntled police officers but they are afraid to speak out of the fear of being victimized; they have some good police, some excellent police, some god fearing police, but they are afraid,” Conway said.