Aug 14, 2017 News
Veteran politician and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran has his reservations about the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the alleged plot to assassinate President David Granger. He is of the opinion that the Guyana Police Force should not be targeted this way as it is the “first and last” line of defence for Guyana. Further, Ramkarran said that the ongoing investigation has the potential to ruin the careers of members of the Force.
Ramkarran’s views are reflected in his latest column published on his website, www.conversationtree.com.
In that piece, Ramkarran noted that the public has been gripped over the past few weeks by the evidence which has been emerging from the COI.
He noted parts of the COI’s Terms of Reference (TOR) which states, “The Commission will review all actions taken by the Guyana Police Force and examine whether there was evidence of failure, neglect or omission to thoroughly or properly investigate the intention or plan to assassinate the President and determine whether such failure or omission was intentional…The Commission of Inquiry will also seek to determine whether any person and, in particular, officers of the Guyana Police Force had any information before and after reports were made of the plan to assassinate the President and whether any such officers communicated that information to a superior authority.”
Also, Ramkarran noted that in responding to concerns raised by the Opposition, Minister of State Joe Harmon is reported to have said that COIs are used by the administration to ‘ferret out information, which would not necessarily be made available during regular investigations.’
Ramkarran said that it was also reported that the COI ‘would address among other things the police’s investigation of the case.’ “In any event, the TOR suggests that there will be an investigation of the investigators, which must address whether there has been a dereliction of duty or failure to properly investigate the matter.”
With that being said, Ramkarran stated that it is not known what motivations were behind the decision to hold a public, as opposed to a private, inquiry.
“I am not suggesting that there might have been anything sinister. But I would have thought that the danger of a public inquiry of undermining the investigators in the eyes of the public would inevitably be the consequence of a public inquiry in view of the TOR.”
The former Speaker said that an internal investigation by an external agency such as the COI, utilizing the same or similar procedures applicable to a public inquiry, might have served to elicit the same information, while at the same time protecting the Police Force.
Ramkarran noted that the Guyana Police Force, particularly the Criminal Investigation Department, depends on confidentiality in relation to its methods and practices. Where these are exposed it can compromise future investigations.
Ramkarran even raised the question about police methods being compromised. He said, “Those with a criminal bent are certainly paying attention to learn all they can about police methods.”
He continued, “Apart from this, it is not clear why it is necessary to parade witnesses from outside the investigating team, and who may not have training as investigators, to publicly chastise investigators and even the Commissioner on tangential issues.”
Ramkarran noted that the Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud, gave evidence, “no doubt to defend himself against allegations.” Ramkarran said that it does not appear that the allegations made against Commissioner Persaud related directly to the investigation of the alleged assassination plot, but to the propriety of him requesting the release of the brother of the person under investigation, Imran Khan, who was held for disorderly behavior, and whether he read the file relating to the matter.
Further, Ramkarran said that Crime Chief Wendell Blannum also gave evidence “and gave a good account of himself.
“The Crime Chief does not court the press, but every time he comes under public scrutiny, his reputation soars.”
Ramkarran said that Blannum “spoke truth to power and was quite clear that the story of the complainant, Andriff Gillard was ‘inherently incredible.’ Based on legal advice, he viewed the information obtained as ‘tenuous’ and not sufficient to base legal charges. Blannum expressed satisfaction with the investigation.
“The Crime Chief has been rightly praised for his work in the past. The results show that he is one of the most successful Crime Chiefs in recent memory. Even though Guyana still lives in fear of crime, there would be much public concern if there is second guessing of the work of the Crime Chief.”
Ramkarran noted that former Justice of Appeal Claudette Singh, Senior Counsel, who is the Police Legal Adviser will assist the COI. He said however that it is not known whether Singh will give evidence. “But it appears that she advised that no charge be brought. This is not surprising, having regard to the evidence, which came out in the COI, that the Police had evidence that Andriff Gillard was making up the story. With such conflicting evidence in the Police file, there would have been no hope of a conviction. In fact, based on their investigations, according to the evidence of Corporal Keion Benjamin, the Police concluded that Andriff Gillard should be charged for giving false information to the police.”
Ramkarran wrote that the public waits anxiously for the conclusion of the COI as to whether the investigation was adequate or not and, if so, in what areas the Criminal Investigation and Operations Departments fell down. “If such is the finding, the COI might also wish to tell us what would have been achieved if the investigation had been more thorough, having regard to the evidence by and in relation to, Andriff Gillard and the independent evidence that his story is false.”
The former Speaker said, “Investigations such as these ruin careers. Let us hope that the Police Force and its able and dedicated officers survive unscathed. High though the crime rate, they are our first and last line of defence.”
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