Acting Police Commissioner, David Ramnarine on Friday conceded that he was never trained as a detective but rejected suggestions that he had told Commission of Inquiry that the plot to assassinate President David Granger was not properly investigated because of malice against Police Commissioner, Seelalall Persaud and Crime Chief, Wendell Blanhum.
Under cross-examination by the substantive Police Commissioner’s Attorney-at-Law, Glenn Hanoman, the Acting Police Commissioner admitted that when he offered his opinion to the Commission of Inquiry that the probe was compromised was not based on qualifications, specialised training or experience as a detective.
Asked what instructions he had provided to the Crime Chief when Andriff Guillard alleged on March 29, 2017 that Nizam Khan had offered him GYD$7 million in June, 2015 to kill President Granger, Ramnarine said he instructed the Crime Chief to conduct the probe. Told Blanhum was already probing the report, Ramnarine said “no, this was too important a matter which involved the Head of State and could not have been left without me emphasising to the Crime Chief such importance.”
Minutes later, Ramnarine said “Blanhum knows very well what he has to do,” when Hanoman asked him whether he instructed the Crime Chief what should have been done.
Ramnarine said he did not send for the crime file on that matter, and disagreed that it was only on the basis of Khan and Guillard’s statements that would have determined whether the probe would have gone further.
Although the Acting Police Commissioner said he was concerned that the probe into the assassination plot was not being conducted properly, he said he did not share his view with Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan because he was overseas at that time. He added that he did not inform the Acting Minister of Public Security, Winston Felix for no particular reason or the National Security Council because they had already known about the poor level of the probe.
“I didn’t have to tell them. They already knew. Discussions which unfolded there made me realise that they knew well in advance before that about calls being made and other things and so on…They were deeply concerned about the conduct of senior policemen in an important matter,” he said.
He said based on his training, knowledge, experience and gravity of the alleged assassination plot he would have kept Guillard and Nizam Khan in custody instead of releasing them on bail the same day.
“Absolutely untrue,” was Ramnarine’s response to Hanoman’s question that he had criticised the probe because of personal problems he had with Persaud and Blanhum. “He has reason to lie against Mr Persaud and Mr Blanhum because of the position he found himself in,” Hanoman told Commissioner of Inquiry, Paul Slowe.
Ramnarine further denied that he was currently being investigated by the Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility for allegedly interfering with investigations in connection with a shooting outside Rio Night Club on behalf of Saddiq ‘Bobby’ Rasul. Ramnarine said the probe was completed months ago.
The Acting Police Commissioner said he knows Rasul but “he’s is not my friend, he’s a mere acquaintance” who is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from a commercial bank.
When the Attorney-at-Law asked the Acting Police Commissioner whether he had been in constant telephone contact with Rasul, the Commissioner of Inquiry Paul Slowe objected to the line of questioning saying that it was irrelevant. “I am not going to allow that line of questioning about Mr Bobby Rasul as far as this inquiry is concerned. It has absolutely nothing to do with this inquiry, absolutely nothing,” Slowe said.
Hanoman argued that had do with the systemic issue of the relationship between Police Commissioners and “doing favours for friends” in the same manner that Police Commissioner Persaud had asked that his friend Imran Khan, who had behaved disorderly at the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters on March 29, be released on self-bail because he did not have cash to pay.
Further grilled by Hanoman, Ramnarine admitted that the Office of Professional Responsibility had investigated how he had granted 113 firearm licenses while he had previously acted as Police Commissioner. He said 70 of those licenses were granted to security services, replacements, police officers and to other persons by an authority senior to him.
Ramnarine explained that then ‘A’ Division Commander Assistant Police Commissioner, Cifton Hicken had opined that he had issued those licenses in breach of the law. The Police Commissioner, according to Ramnarine, sent the matter to the Office of Professional Responsibility for investigation. Ramnarine said while Persaud did not oppose a probe of the Office of Police Commissioner, did not provide access to the firearms section to verify the process.
“When the matter went for advice, the Police Legal Adviser (Retired) Justice Claudette Singh advised that if the investigator is not permitted to check the firearm records, what is there to contradict Mr. Ramnarine’s statement that he acted in accordance with the law and practice embedded in the Guyana Police Force for the granting of firearm licences and she also noted that Commissioner had denied the investigators access to the records to compare against my story,” he said.
Ramnarine said when the Police Commissioner returned from leave, he asked the Public Relations Officer for a transcript of his (Ramnarine’s) response to a post on Social Media that he (Ramnarine) had been making millions of dollars daily from the sale of firearm licenses. He said the Police Commissioner had claimed that he had inferred that the substantive top cop had granted firearm licences to a known drug dealer.
After a probe was conducted, Ramnarine said the Director of Public Prosecutions advised that there was nothing to go on because the period he had referred to was one in which Persaud had not granted any firearm licence to the purported drug dealer and that he was not the Police Commissioner at that time.
In an apparent effort to prove malice against the Police Commissioner and the Crime Chief, Attorney-at-Law Hanoman suggested to Ramnarine that he felt bad about what had transpired to which he responded, “obviously, from a professional standpoint, it surprised me that here was my Commissioner launching an investigation into some purported breach involving me, but at the same time denying the investigator access to the records.”
Ramnarine admitted that “maybe I was” upset and “maybe surprised and probably disappointed” but rejected suggestions that he told the Commission of Inquiry that he did not believe that the probe into the assassination plot was conducted properly.
Ramnarine said he would like to be appointed Police Commissioner but his criticisms of the investigation were not aimed at “sucking up” to the political directorate. “I am a professional. I believe in discharging my duties when I would have acted as Commissioner in keeping with the Constitution and the Police Act.”