Prime Minister and Minister for National Security Dr. Keith Mitchell gave support to the actions of Acting Commissioner of Police, Winston James to issue “verbal instructions” to two Assistant Commissioners of Police, Smith Roberts and Dowlin Bartholomew to proceed on immediate vacation leave.
James’ move was viewed with much skepticisms in some quarters since it is widely believed that only the Public Service Commission (PSC) that can give such directives to the gazetted officers.
Addressing reporters at a press conference last week, the Prime Minister said, “all I can tell you …. I’m very much aware of any serious decision that has been made within the force, and it has my support. That’s what I could say, it definitely has my support and as Minister of National Security”.
“…Those of us who are involved in securing the country we have a responsibility to make sure that we have the best persons to manage this area of security and people who we believe are absolutely committed to the securing of this country”, he added.
Speculation is rife that the move is aimed at promoting some officers who are considered to be pro-Mitchell and his five-month old New National Party (NNP) administration.
The Prime Minister told the local media that, “any decision you see we make has to be one thing in mind ensuring the security of the country”.
Dr. Mitchell said that Grenadians should not forget the decision he made as Minister for National Security following the passage of Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004 when the responsibility was handed to former Senator, Einstein Louison who was a Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister.
“You recall in 2004, when Ivan came, the entire force let us down, I let down the country as Minister for National Security. I disciplined myself, and I removed myself as Minister at that time for National Security, cause I felt that I let down the country”, he added.
“I similarly asked the Commissioner and top members of the force to do likewise, you recall that, was not based on personality, was based on principle. If I can do that for myself it tells you that I am more interested in principle than personality”, he said.
Within months of asking then Commissioner of Police Fitzroy Bedeau to quit, the former Chief Cop was endorsed by Prime Minister Mitchell and his NNP to run as its candidate for St. John’s in the 2008 general elections.
In seeking to brush aside the decisions taken against ACP’s Roberts and Bartholomew, the Prime Minister said it is unfortunate that decisions made in the country’s interest are taken personally.
“Unfortunately sometimes when decisions are made people take things too personal in Grenada and sometimes some parts of our society. What is best for the country is what we have to do”, he remarked.
Since taking the reigns of office following the February 19 General Elections, the Mitchell-led administration has been criticised for its involvement in the affairs of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF).
One of the issues is the recent re-appointment of former politician, Sergeant Carl Caton who resigned from RGPF in 2008 to contest the St. Patrick East seat on an NNP ticket.
In addition Superintendent Anthony De Gale, the former “Spy Chief” as Head of the Special Branch unit of the force, under a previous Mitchell government has also been brought back into active police duties after resigning after the change of government in 2008 and migrating to the United States.
Dr. Mitchell told the media that he saw nothing wrong.
“Yes nothing wrong with that, there are people who are involved in different activities and they’re back in e g. Chairman of the Public Service Commission who ran for political office and she’s now head of one of the most sensitive institutions responsible for governing our country”, he said.
“I would think that Caton’s position, as a police officer is far less of a problem, far less sensitive a problem than the Chairman of the Public Service Commission”, he added.
This is reference to Gloria Payne-Banfield, the former head of the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) who contested the 2008 poll for the South St. George Constituency.
Payne-Banfield had run afoul of Mitchell when he first took office in June 1995. He immediately removed her and brought back the retired Majorie Budhoo as Cabinet Secretary.