New PCA head to work on reducing backlog of cases
Newly-appointed Chairman of Police Complaints Authority (PCA), retired Justice William Ramlall, was officially sworn in on Wednesday before President David Granger at State House.Retired Justice William Ramlall (left) with his instrument of appoint in hand and President David Granger (left) following his official swearing in at State House on Wednesday (Dexter Ceres photo)Ramlall, during a brief interview with the local press following the swearing in ceremony, said he is committed to ensuring that the Authority is brought up to speed.He said he will use the first few weeks on the job to familiarise himself with the staff of the PCA and plans to look into the backlog of cases, to bring the current number down.While he could not put a figure to this, he said he is quite sure the numbers could be “enormous”, especially given the fact that the Authority has managed without a chair for some time.In delivering remarks, President Granger reminded that the appointment of a Chairman of the PCA is in compliance with the provisions of the laws of Guyana. He also said the appointment is consistent with Government’s commitment to increasing public trust in the Guyana Police Force.“The Authority can help to improve the level of public trust between the Police and the public. The Authority is a critical link between the Police and the public,” he explained.According to the Guyanese Head of State, it provides a means through which the public can have its grievances against Police malpractices addressed in an impartial manner by an independent person.The Authority is a public defence against the Force’s abuse of citizens’ rights. The Authority allows citizens to hold the Force’s members accountable for their actions.Moreover, the PCA can engender greater public trust in the Force by ensuring that the Force’s actions are in conformity with respect for human rights, including the right to life and liberty, rights.Granger said, “The Authority, to effectively discharge its mandate, will be expected to exhibit the qualities of impartiality, integrity and independence. In so doing, it can rely on the Executive Branch support in discharging its lawful mandate.”However, the President said the existence of a commission, however, is not enough to guarantee that the Police Force would be officered by persons who are competent, committed and uncorrupted.“A Force, which is contaminated by corruption cannot safeguard the security of our citizens. Service in the Force must be based on the values of commitment, competence and incorruptibility.”The Police Force, if it is to maintain public safety, Granger said, must ensure that it enjoys public trust. The idea of public trust arises out of the relationship between the Police and the public.“All politics is about people. It follows that whatever trust the people place in the Police must be respected. Bribery is regarded as a notorious crime because it contributes to corruption and, thereby, undermines, public trust. That is the reason when I was asked what qualities I sought in appointing a Commissioner of Police I did not hesitate to say that he must be “unbribable.”Retired Justices BS Roy, William Ramlall and Claudette La Bennett were first recommended to head the PCA which has been without a chairperson for more than a year. However, after consultation with Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, a statement was issued declaring Ramlall as successful.Last February, Justice (retired) Cecil Kennard, who had been Chairman since 2002, was forced to step down by Granger because of his age. At the time, he was almost 80 years old.Kennard was initially given 36 hours to demit office, however, he was given an extension after the intervention of Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan.President Granger has faced criticism over the decision to force Kennard to step down and then failing to fill the vacancy. But he said Kennard’s removal was part of his Administration’s move to establish an age limit for membership of State boards, agencies and commissions, in order to pave the way for younger persons to take the lead.Granger, however, subsequently did an about face on the claimed age policy when he appointed Justice James Patterson, 84, to head the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).