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Attorney General, Police Service Commission disagree over whether President cannot face courts

Last Updated on Friday, 30 July 2021, 8:29 by Denis Chabrol

Attorney General Anil Nandlall maintains that Guyana’s Executive President cannot be brought before the courts in civil and criminal actions, but lawyers for the Police Service Commission (PSC) on Thursday disagreed, saying that President Irfaan Ali was named in his official capacity.

After the PSC named Dr. Ali as a respondent in a case against the Police Commissioner’s refusal to issue a special promotions order, Attorneys for that Service Commission countered Mr. Nandlall’s contention that the President could not be sued. “His Excellency    is  not  above  the  Laws  or the Constitution  of  Guyana His Excellency, notwithstanding   his status   as Head of State, is not above the Constitution    or  the  Laws  of Guyana.  This much is a necessary corollary of the rule of law and the fundamental principle of constitutionalism,” the attorneys said.

The PSC’s lawyers, Dexter Todd and Selwyn Pieters, acknowledged that the Attorney General is expected to represent and advise the President of Guyana. However, the Attorneys said there is nothing in Guyana’s Constitution or the State Liability and Proceedings Act that prevents the President from being sued especially since it was he whom had suspended the PSC.

The Commission said the President is a “necessary and proper party” especially since it was he who had suspended that body that is responsible for disciplining and promoting from the rank of Inspector to Assistant Commissioner of Police.

The immunities of the President are captured in Article 182 of Guyana’s Constitution that states that the President shall not be held personally answerable to any court for the performance of the functions of his or her office or for any act done in the performance of those functions and no proceedings, whether criminal or civil , shall be instituted against him or her in his or her personal capacity in respect thereof either  during his or term of office or thereafter.

The Attorney General has moved to the courts to have President Ali struck off as a respondent because he is immune from civil and criminal court action.

Dr. Ali is named in a case in which the PSC is challenging the Police Commissioner Nigel Hoppie’s failure or refusal to issue  a special promotions order for 139 officers to allow for their badges of rank to be issued.

The PSC also wants the High Court to declare that President Ali’s suspension of the PSC is null, void and unconstitutional and that the promotions have been properly made.

Dr. Ali has suspended the PSC, pending the establishment of a tribunal,  but that body still went ahead and issued promotions on the grounds that it  could not have been suspended in the absence of a Tribunal which has to be first established by the Judicial Service Commission. The President is yet to  reconstitute a Judicial Service Commission.