Last Updated on Friday, 24 March 2023, 15:09 by Denis Chabrol
High Court Judge Gino Persaud on Friday ruled that President Irfaan Ali violated Guyana’s Constitution by suspending the then Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Retired Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Slowe because there was no mechanism to give him a fair hearing.
“In summary, therefore, the decision of His Excellency the President to suspend the chairman and other members of the Commission was unlawful and in contravention of Article 225 of the Constitution, arbitrary, unreasonable, unfair, in violation of a suspended Chairman and Commissioners constitutional rights that are protection of the law and due process of the law,” Justice Persaud said.
The High Court noted that President Ali, acting on advice of Prime Minister Mark Phillips, suspended Mr Slowe on June 16, 2021, although there was no Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to appoint a Tribunal to hear allegations against the then PSC. Though Mr Slowe and then fellow PSC member Retired Assistant Police Commissioner Clifton Conway had been charged with conspiracy to defraud the Guyana Police Force, Justice Persaud said the presumption of innocence is what mattered.
“The right to due process is a constitutional right that is not abrogated due to the non-existence of the tribunal. Surely, the right of due process envisages the expectation and existence of the Tribunal. The non existence of a tribunal left the applicants perpetually suspended an extension of this unhappy situation is a scenario where the citizen has offered a grievance and is unable to come to court for redress because the court is not in existence,” he said.
On the absence of a JSC, Justice Persaud remarked that that was a “burden for the President to bear”. In the face of concerns about the heavy workload due to few judges, Attorney General Anil Nandlall earlier this year assured that a JSC would have been appointed early in the first quarter of this year, but so far that has not been done.
The judge reasoned that there were no conditions such as an upheaval that warranted the President to invoke the doctrine of necessity. Mr Persaud said the President’s suspension without a JSC and a Tribunal place amounted to arbitrary removal of Mr Slowe without due process by an objective. body. “The suspension of the chairman and other members in the absence of a judicial Service Commission and constituted tribunal was a nuclear response by His Excellency the President. The suspension proved permanent and tantamount to a removal from office without due process,” he said.
The Judge said it was not his function to adjudicate on the claim by the State that there was “political contamination” of the PSC or alleged crimes. “This court setting and its supervisory jurisdiction in a judicial review case is not concerned with the merits or demerits of alleged misbehavior of the constitutional office holders. That is a function of the tribunal,” he said.
The Court has given the State and lawyers for Mr Slowe 20 days to exchange arguments for cost. Already Attorney-at-Law, Selwyn Peters has indicated that his team’s cost would be high given the duration of the case from 2021 to present.