Six intelligence officers being paid by the Office of the President is not irregular, Government yesterday insisted.
The publication of the names of the officers was heavily criticised by Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, who said that the media house anti-government and anti-PPP stance may have clouded judgments in deciding to publish.
In Thursday’s edition of the Kaieteur News, it was revealed that six officers, three each from the Guyana Defence and Police Forces were receiving a stipend of $30,000 from the Office of the President (OP)for what is described as additional works.
Angered by the publication, the Joint Services have lashed out over the disclosure of the identities of its secret security officers.
Chairman of the Joint Services Coordinating Council (JSCC), Commodore Gary Best, said that it is unfortunate that the media compromised the security of the officers who are part of a GSM Tracker Unit.
In memos from the permanent secretary of the Office of the President, Dr. Nanda Gopaul, the Acting Chief Accountant was advised that approval was given for the payment to the officers for the month of February.
The article published the names of the officers and their bank account numbers to which the stipend should be credited. This has not gone down well with the military.
Commodore Best told members of the media that while the names of the officers are already public knowledge, the media should have exercised more caution, since such action has compromised the security of the officers who he said are working for the protection of all, including members of the media.
A written statement issued Thursday said that Commodore Best has noted the Kaieteur News article and wishes to state that “there is nothing unusual about these payments, because they are payments for Joint Services activities out of the Joint Services vote which is held at the Office of The President”.
According to Dr. Luncheon yesterday, even if Guyana had Freedom of Information regulations, because of the fact that certain information, including ones that had to do specifically with national security, would be exempted. In some countries, there is a lid on these security information for a period of time, up to 30 years in some cases.
He noted that the response of Commodore Best reflects the stance of the government.
The official made it clear that for all intents and purposes, OP is the Ministry of Defence that is in charge of national security and has wide ranging powers of intervention outside that of the military and law enforcement arms of the government.
With a planned National Intelligence Centre not yet in operation and staffers not recruited, OP had been using personnel from the Special Branch of the police and of the army to provide these national security functions.
The official felt that the decision by Kaieteur News to publish the names of the officers crossed the “great divide” and probably clouded judgments on what is safe, reasonable and justifiable.
Luncheon admitted that there are suspicions of who leaked the information to the media but insisted that the responsibility to publish or not, rests with the publisher.
Questioned about the fact that systems regulating national security were breached, the spokesman stressed that the establishment of the National Intelligence will see a more “rigorous” environment of state security, of intelligence and documents.
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