Pubdate: Sun, 14 Oct 2007
Source: Stabroek News (Guyana)
Copyright: 2007 Stabroek News
Author: Nigel Williams


Confirm him or let him go is the clarion call by some  opposition 
Members of Parliament and leading private  sector officials as 
government continues to prevaricate  over the appointment of Henry 
Greene to the substantive  post of Commissioner of Police.

Greene, a lawyer by profession, has been acting in the  capacity of 
Police Commissioner since last year July  when Winston Felix demitted 
office. His tenure at the  helm of the force has been marked by the 
US revocation  of both his diplomatic and visitor's visas and a 
spate  of serious, unsolved crime.

Washington had told Greene that he benefited materially  from the 
drugs trade, which is why it revoked his visas  to that country, 
Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon  disclosed to this newspaper last 
year July. It is  widely believed that this is the reason why 
President  Bharrat Jagdeo has been dithering on appointing him.

Greene, however, had vehemently denied any connections  with the drug 
trade and in a statement he said that it  was obvious that 
unjustified and improperly motivated  attempts were being made to 
besmirch his good name and  character. In his statement which was 
issued a day after it was revealed that the US Embassy had 
revoked  his visitor's visa Greene said the revocation was 
"a  painful event for me" but he noted that it is the  prerogative of 
foreign states to grant visas and to  also revoke such visas in their 
own deliberate  judgment, subject to the application of their laws. 
"I  want to categorically state that I have never been  involved in 
any way with illegal drug operations either  locally or abroad, and I 
have never associated with any  drug dealer," Greene stressed in his 
statement. He  added, "I have taken steps, and will continue so to 
do,  to ensure the eradication of the drug scourge in this  country."

President Jagdeo said at the time that he found it  strange that the 
US Embassy had revoked the Acting  Commissioner's visas. He said that 
the administration  had asked Washington to provide specifics of what 
led  to the action. The President also asserted back then  that if 
there was evidence of wrongdoing on Greene's  part, government would 
have no problem in having him  step down. On July 21 last year the 
same day retired  Police Commissioner Felix demitted office it was 
revealed that Greene's visitor's visa to the US was  revoked. 
Observers had said then that the withdrawal  was likely a move to 
thwart his appointment to the  police force top job. The revocation 
of the visitor's  visa had come months after his diplomatic visa was 
also rescinded. He said at the time of the first revocation  that he 
did not know what was behind the sudden move  and added that he had 
no problem with the US government  or the embassy. His diplomatic 
visa was issued in 2002  to attend a course! on terrorism on behalf 
of the Guyana  Police Force in Washington. The visa was a 
five-year  one and had not expired when it was revoked. At 
that  point he had noted that his US visitor's visa was still  intact 
and as such he could still travel to the US, not  knowing that the US 
was coming for that also.

Negative effects

Questioned about the situation regarding the  appointment of Greene, 
Leader of the Opposition Robert  Corbin said that it is certainly 
unhealthy for the  development of any professional organization to 
have  "actors" performing substantive functions. Corbin said  that 
the situation in the police force is just one  example of what has 
been happening in many sectors of  the country. "The negative effects 
of acting  appointments can impact on stability, justice 
and  confidence in the institutions that are there with 
the  responsibility to advance certain functions of the  state," the 
PNCR leader declared.

Asked whether he has ever raised the issue of Greene's  appointment 
with the President, Corbin said he has been  speaking on the matter 
as well as other issues on every  occasion he meets with Jagdeo. 
Questioned as to what  Jagdeo has been telling him, Corbin shied away 
from  answering, while insisting that he is trying to conform  to the 
norms of a modern democracy by making these  matters known. He said 
if this course fails the  dynamics of any situation will generate its 
own consequences.

On whether he would support Greene becoming the  substantive police 
commissioner, Corbin said that it  was not a matter he wished to 
comment on at the moment,  adding that he did not want to be drawn 
into a  discussion on personalities. "I am commenting on the 
principle of the appointment of a COP, but I do not  think it is fair 
to either him (Greene) or me at this  stage to engage in a 
personality hunt," the Opposition  Leader declared. On whether the 
issue of personality  came up during his talks with the President on 
the appointment of Greene, Corbin said no, adding that he  only 
discussed personality as it relates to the  Chancellor of the Judiciary.

According to Article 211 (1) of the Constitution, the  Commissioner 
of Police shall be appointed by the  President acting after 
meaningful consultation with the  Leader of the Opposition and 
Chairperson of the Police  Service Commission after the chairperson 
has consulted  with the other members of the commission. At 
present  the Police Service Commission is not fully 
constituted,  although three members were sworn in last week. 
The  life of the previous commission came to an end in March  this 
year several months after Greene was appointed to act.

Let him go

Member of Parliament for the GAP/ROAR alliance, Everall  Franklin 
said that his party is very concerned "since  we are in a situation 
where crime is spiralling and  therefore leadership has to take 
responsibility both at  the level of the government and the police 
force." "We  were wondering whether the non-appointment has to do 
with the US revoking his visas," Franklin said, adding  that Guyana 
continues to beg for assistance from the  US, the same country which 
has withdrawn the  commissioner's travel privileges to that country. 
Franklin said there were many issues stacked against  Greene not 
least the revocation of his visas.

The MP said that the acting commissioner's handling of  the recent 
allegations made against Senior  Superintendent Steve Merai, the 
controversial shooting  to death of Buxtonian Donna Herod, among 
other issues  have weighed heavily against him. Stabroek News 
was  also told recently that Greene was warned by a joint  services 
official about the attack on the commercial  banks in Rose Hall last 
year, but he did nothing. When  he was questioned about this 
subsequently by Stabroek News he declined to comment. Merai had been 
accused by  a businessman who said that the police officer 
demanded  money from him over a drug deal. Greene had announced  that 
an investigation was launched, but he subsequently  revealed that 
they could not move forward with the investigations because the 
businessman who made the  allegations had vanished. Observers believe 
that the  announcement of an investigation was aimed at 
appeasing  citizens, but no work was actually being done. It 
was  pointed out! that it was not what the businessman had to  say 
that was important but whether Merai's story was  credible. Merai who 
was in charge of patrols in  Georgetown when the allegations were 
made was hauled  off that duty by Greene and reassigned to coordinate 
patrols for ministers of government. Franklin asserted  that if there 
are questions about Greene's character  then it would be difficult 
for the government to  confirm him. "But I think the administration 
should either confirm him or let him go and look for 
another  person," the GAP/ROAR MP declared. He said it is clear  that 
the issue of Greene's appointment is not about  natural succession, 
since he is the next in line to  Felix. The MP said it was time the 
police force got a substantive head, noting that the position is 
too  critical for someone to be acting for so long. The MP  noted 
that the non-appointment of Greene would only  weaken his own 
influence on his charges who would no  doubt go along with the 
popular ! view that the administration does not have confidence in him.

Asked whether his party would support Greene's  candidacy, cognizant 
of the cloud that hangs over him,  Franklin said in the absence of 
the specific details of  the allegations levelled against the Acting 
Police  Chief by the US his party would be hard pressed to make  a 
decision. He said, however, the fact that President  Jagdeo has shied 
away from confirming Greene seems to  indicate that government is 
privy to more information  which would backfire on them if they were 
to go ahead  and make such an appointment.

Franklin advanced four possible reasons why there  continues to be a 
delay in the appointment: he said  that it is either the government 
does not have  confidence in Greene; they are waiting to see if he 
could perform; they want to control him or they are  afraid that the 
US would sanction them. Asked why the  opposition was not asking 
questions about the issue,  Franklin said the issue was raised on 
numerous  occasions, but they never got a proper answer. He  believes 
the reason why the administration has shied  away from this is 
because they do not want to reveal  exactly what the US has said. On 
whether he thinks  Greene has performed creditably since he took over 
from Felix, Franklin said he is not impressed with his  performance. 
The MP said there were a lot of  outstanding matters that Greene has 
failed to bring  closure to. He said too that the force continues 
to  rate their success on the number of criminals they  kill, 
pointing out that this skewed view of policing  was highlighted 
recently when Home Affairs Minister  Clement Rohee surprisingly 
visited the crime scene where two bandits were killed on Main Street 
two weeks  ago. He said at the scene Rohee lauded the 
police  efforts. "You do not judge success by how many people  you 
killed if killing is the measuring rod for success  then we might as 
well go back to the days of the death squad," Franklin said. The 
opposition MP noted too that  government likes to boast about how 
much money it has  spent on the police force, yet most of the 
policemen  are still impoverished.

Too many actors

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Raphael  Trotman said that 
the continued insistence of the  administration to have key officials 
acting has  undermined natural justice and the performance of the 
respective agencies these officers head. He noted that  Greene's 
continued acting in the capacity will  certainly affect the morale of 
the force. Trotman said  that it was not only the post of 
Commissioner of Police  he is concerned about but a number of 
other  appointments in the judiciary and the public service.  Trotman 
said he had raised the issue during the last  budget debate, but the 
government continues to be  slothful in addressing it. According to 
the AFC Leader,  the administration's approach to the rule of law 
is  disturbing. "The government should appoint Mr.  Greene unless 
they don't have confidence in him,"  Trotman declared. Asked whether 
he thinks the US allegations were weighing heavily against 
Greene,  Trotman said if that is the case then Jagdeo should!  tell 
the nation so. "Let the public know what the  reason is for you not 
confirming the gentleman," Trotman urged. Asked for his views on 
Greene's  leadership and the performance of the force, Trotman  said 
that from last year before and after Cricket World  Cup the security 
forces performed creditably. He however said that within the past few 
months there has  been a rise in crime and this is worrying. He 
too  chided Greene for his handling of the shooting to death  of 
Donna Herod, the torture of the two Buxtonian and  the Steve Merai saga.

Additionally, two leading private sector officials told  this 
newspaper that it was unfortunate that Greene  found himself in such 
a situation. One of the officials  insisted that the acting Top Cop 
was a well-trained  professional and it is regrettable he could not 
be confirmed. "If the government does not want him to be  the head 
then they should move him aside and look for  someone else," one of 
the private sector officials who  asked not be named said. The 
official asserted that  despite the uncertainty surrounding Greene's 
tenure at the helm of the force his performance was well 
noted,  although admitting that the police force needs to do  more to 
effectively tackle crime.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart