National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said on Friday that he advised the acting Commissioner of Police not to return to work a week ahead of the expiration of his vacation leave.
Responding in the Senate to a motion filed by Opposition Senator Wade Mark, the minister clarified earlier media reports which suggested that he had instructed Gary Griffith to stay home until further notice.
Griffith, who is due to resume duties on Tuesday, had raised concerns on Friday that Hinds did not have the power to instruct him to stay home, and those instructions can only come from the Police Service Commission, an independent body under the Constitution.
Hinds did not respond to queries from Newsday earlier on Friday, but said in the Senate that it was Griffith who had written to him seeking to return to work a week before his vacation leave ended.
The minister said he advised Griffith that he would get back to him and later learned that Griffith had also written to the Police Service Commission (PSC) which advised him that his early return to work was a matter for Hinds.
Hinds said, in a telephone conversation with Griffith, which was overheard by the permanent secretary for the Ministry of National Security, he told Griffith to remain on leave until Monday, based on the letter from the PSC which Griffith acknowledged.
Legal sources said the PSC can send Griffith on leave beyond September 20, only if there is a pending disciplinary matter. But even before initiating any disciplinary matter, the PSC will have to give Griffith an opportunity to be heard, in keeping with the rules of natural justice.
“The PSC is fully aware of its role and function where it cannot send someone on leave unless, of course, there is a disciplinary matter or there is some investigation that is taking place by relevant law enforcement authorities,” Griffith said on Friday.
Griffith three-year term as commissioner ended on August 17 and the PSC appointed him to act in the post until a substantive office-holder is appointed.
He is among the top candidates interviewed by the PSC. But a High Court judge has stalled the process of forwarding the names to President Paula-Mae Weekes after a complaint by one applicant, Snr Supt Anand Ramesar, about the fairness of the process.
In addition, there was an enquiry initiated by the National Security Council (NSC), chaired by the Prime Minister, over allegations of bribes and corruption in the granting of firearm user’s licences under Griffith’s tenure.
Hinds also told the Senate on Friday that the engagement of retired Rear Admiral Hayden Pritchard and retired Snr Supt Arthur Barrington, formerly of the Special Branch, by the National Security Council to embark on a fact-finding exercise, was above board. He said the NSC could not ignore the public disquiet and other information concerning the granting of firearm user’s licences and the report proved to be useful.
Hinds said the Pritchard and Barrington made “strong and serious recommendations” without naming anyone, and if in the future any matter of criminality arises the police service will treat with it.
The PSC subsequently appointed retired Justice of Appeal Stanley John to look into the allegations. The terms of reference of John’s enquiry have not been made public.
On Thursday, Griffith issued his first public statement in the wake of published reports about the enquiries, claiming that they were fuelled by “detractors and defenders of criminal elements, both inside and outside the police service” in an attempt to affect the process of selecting a police commissioner.
He wrote: “The hatred and fear for (sic) my return by some is mind boggling, and they have put it as their mission to do all they can to prevent it. There is even a ‘gundelero’ who complains to others about persons getting too many firearms, including 5.56 ammunition, but they only voiced these concerns after they applied and acquired several firearms themselves, exposing their own hypocrisy because, they have multiple firearms and 5.56 ammunition.”
He claimed “the last-ditch attempt” to discredit him has been to use a report to write a series of articles drawing on a confidential report which was not based on any facts.
Griffith said he was confident that at the end of the day the allegations would prove baseless, and believed he was the most suitable and competent candidate to be appointed CoP.