Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, SC, on Wednesday, heard oral arguments in the legal action filed by Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher Jones, challenging the appointment of Clifton Hicken as the Police Commissioner (ag).
Jones, among other things, wants the Chief Justice to declare Hicken’s appointment unlawful, as well as the recent promotion of several senior Police officers, on the basis that President Irfaan Ali violated Articles 211 (1) and 211 (2) of the Constitution when he failed to “meaningfully consult” with the Opposition Leader.
Article 211(1) of the Constitution states that the power to appoint any offices in the Police Force above the rank of Inspector or to remove such persons from office vest in the Police Service Commission (PSC).
On the other hand, Article 211(2) states, “The Police Service Commission may, by directions in writing and subject to such conditions as it thinks fit, delegate any of its powers under the preceding paragraph to any one or more members of the Commission or to the Commissioner of Police or, in the case of the power to exercise disciplinary control, to any other member of the Police Force.”
However, at the time of Hicken’s appointment on March 30, there was no Leader of the Opposition following Joseph Harmon’s resignation on January 26. Aubrey Norton took up the post of Opposition Leader on April 13. On May 31, President Ali appointed the members of the PSC.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, said that it was uncertain when a new Opposition Leader would have been appointed, and a vacuum in the highest office in the Guyana Police Force (GPF)—the country’s premier law enforcement agency, would have jeopardized the public’s interest, national security, public order, the rule of law, and the territorial integrity of Guyana.
Presuming that there was a constitutional breach, Nandlall submitted that the doctrine of necessity justified a departure from what is required by law.
However, Jones’s lawyer, Roysdale Forde, SC, contended that the Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn’s Affidavit in Defence failed to establish the invocation of the doctrine of necessity.
The AG advanced that the President’s decision is constitutional and a matter of executive policy. It was noted that the Head of State had commenced meaningful consultation with the Opposition Leader and the PSC to appoint Hicken as acting Commissioner of Police.
However, the process was halted after Norton moved to the court seeking an order, pending a ruling on an application in which he asked the court for an interpretation of the term “meaningful consultation” along with the challenge to the President’s appointment of the PSC and Integrity Commission.
Justice George has since set Aug 11 at 13:30h for her ruling in the matter.