Talk show host, Kem Jones has called on attorney-at-law, Derick Sylvester to step down as head of the Public Service Commission (PSC) in the wake of public outcry in the Claudius Coutain matter.
Coutain, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF), was re-instated into the post in the wake of an ongoing court case into criminal charges brought against him connected with an alleged driver’s license scam.
Jones took to the streets Wednesday to stage as one-man protest outside the Office of the PSC located in the junction between Belmont and Butler House Gap.
The talk show figure who is associated with the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) called for the immediate resignation of Sylvester who flew out of the island two days earlier for the United States alongside his female companion who was seeking medical attention.
ASP Coutain was reinstated to RGPF on June 13 by the PSC to the annoyance of several persons in many quarters including some police officers who regard the action as unfair since the suspended senior police officer will be re-instated with full pay despite the fact that the court action is still pending against him.
Jones called on patriotic Grenadians to join him outside the PSC building to send a strong message to the PSC, as well as Governor General, Dame Cecile La Grenade, and Prime Minister and Minister for National Security, Dr. Keith Mitchell, that the move involving Coutain will not be accepted because it was an attempt to undermine the credibility of the force.
“I am standing up today as a citizen of Grenada and saying to Derick Sylvester that you should resign forthwith because this is a serious blunder. I don’t know who influenced you, I thought you were a brilliant chap and you would be able to do the right thing but in this instance you did the wrong thing by allowing ASP Coutain to be reinstated in the RGPF”, he told reporters.
Describing the PSC decision as “a travesty”, Jones accused Sylvester of taking part in a decision that diminishes his integrity and credibility.
He said: “As a citizen of Grenada I am saddened. I couldn’t have contemplated that a brilliant chap as Derick Sylvester (would) compromise his integrity. He is a lawyer, he should have known better – the matter is before the court of law, the gentleman has been charged, seven charges, investigations were carried (out), and he was been suspended from the Force.
“I cannot fathom how Derick Sylvester could reinstate this guy into the system. What kind of example is this,” he questioned.
According to Jones, his biggest concern in the issue is the precedence being set for the junior officers of RGPF.
“Are you saying to the younger officers and public servants generally (that) you are free to break the law (and) once you are a supporter of any political organisation, you would be reinstated because you are close to retirement so that you can get your gratuity and pension? I mean it is a serious concern that I think all citizens should have (as) it is tantamount to corruption”.
Jones alluded to several instances in which other police officers found themselves in trouble with the law but were not afforded the same privilege of reinstatement as ASP Coutain.
The senior police officer was slapped with seven fraudulent criminal charges in 2015 in relation to an alleged driver’s license scam.
Sources close to Coutain told this newspaper that the embattled officer is confident of winning his case in court.
According to Jones, the reinstatement of ASP Coutain in the force should not come before the court makes a ruling on the criminal matter and that the laws of the country should be carried out without interference.
“If someone commits an offence and it is before the law courts, let justice reign, let the judge or the magistrate rule on the matter before you reinstate that individual. I understand that the individual is not even in Grenada. It is a cause for concern,” he said.
September 23 is the date set for the next hearing for the case against ASP Coutain at the St George’s No.1 Magistrate’s Court.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has added his voice to the hullabaloo surrounding Coutain’s reinstatement by the Sylvester-led PSC describing it as a “gross disrespect for law and order” in the country.
Thomas feared that this development “would undermine the confidence of citizens in the court and at the same time the Public Service Commission could be seen as aiding and abetting criminal conduct in the country because the Public Service Commission ought to know that this man has been charged with criminal offences”.
“…This is a dangerous development and it poses a threat to our institutions and our security as a people,” he said.
The former Grenadian leader said that the PSC action on the Coutain matter is “one that everyone who is concerned about institutions and respect for rule of law should take a stand against”.
“This is a development that I think ought to be condemned and I think people behind it should be prosecuted…there should be some procedure to deal with that…it is sending a real negative message,” he added.
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has also expressed concern with the latest developments.
In a statement issued last week Wednesday, Congress said it “is gravely concerned with the surreptitious reinstatement of Assistant Superintendent Claudius David Coutain, into the RGPF”.
“We call on the Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) Mr. Derick Sylvester to explain this action to the Grenadian people, especially as ASP Coutain has not been acquitted of the numerous charges brought against him in the court of law.
“In the same vein, the party notes too that it is under the very same PSC that the Acting Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Mr. Tafawa Pierre continues to be the de facto Director, despite the fact that Mr. Pierre, by virtue of being a Politically Exposed Person (PEP), is disqualified from holding such office; a violation of Section 15 (f) of the FIU Act.
“The NDC is clear that these actions erode the rule of law, diminishes respect for institutions and damages good governance generally.
“The NDC notes that the integrity of all the institutions of our country are being systematically corrupted and compromised by those now in authority.
“As a party with a track record of transparency and good governance, we are saddened that the PSC, a creature of our constitution, appears to be contributing to the breakdown of law and order in our country.
“We therefore reiterate our call for an immediate explanation of the action to reinstate ASP Coutain as well as why a Politically Exposed Person is allowed to function as Director of the FIU.
“We further call for corrective action to be taken in the above-mentioned matters as they set a dangerous precedent in our Public Service.
“We also call for all like-minded citizens and organisations who subscribe to the principle of good governance, to condemn these acts that contribute to the moral decay which is taking hold of our nation.”