By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
DAMIAN Gomez, lawyer for the Progressive Liberal Party, said the Minnis administration’s directions for the Royal Bahamas Police Force to pursue corruption cases before legislation is passed establishing an independent anti-corruption agency has opened the system to abuse, bias and interference from the governing party.
Mr Gomez said the Progressive Liberal Party is preparing its own counter-actions.
“The PLP may well set up a committee to do an investigation into what we know to be corrupt activities of some former ministers of the Free National Movement and we shall publish it with a request to the new anti-corruption unit for their action and attention,” the former minister of state for legal affairs said.
His statement came as a source in the RBPF, who did not want to be named, claimed,government officials have given specific directions for police to “go after” certain investigations.
“It’s not us, it’s them,” one senior police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, claimed yesterday. “That shouldn’t be their number one focus. Don’t mind what they say, we can’t do anything without government because we know where our directives come from.”
The United Nations’ convention on corruption establishes criteria for specialised anti-corruption agencies to be established to conduct corruption probes.
Legislation for such bodies typically mandates that the agency be independent from political interference and influence.
Said Mr Gomez: “The Anti-Corruption Unit in the police force has no statutory basis at all here. It’s adjunct of the police department and to the extent that it appears the minister of national security is directly involved in the direction of what is going on, that impairs the independence of the police department.
“You should set up an independent structure that is visibly independent of political interference. Our problem right now is you’ve got ministers in the House of Assembly who are speaking directly to matters that should not be spoken to by them. They are far more aware than what one would think reasonable about what’s going on with these investigations.
“One key focus of anti-corruption is assuring public confidence in whatever system you set up. Ultimately, who is going to police the police? I would have thought we would have had public discussions firstly about how the Anti-Corruption Unit is to operate, what are its parametres, what are the issues that need to be shored up and provisions that need to be passed in order to ensure this isn’t abused. We’ve had nothing of that sort and so we are left with a situation where PLPs are being exclusively targeted. Tell me, is the unit investigating anything from the 2007 to 2012 Ingraham administration era?
Attorney Wayne Munroe, a member of the PLP, also said the process has been abused. “We have Penal Code offences and the common law being used when the same offences are covering the Prevention of Bribery Act which is the specialist act,” Mr Munroe said. “They charged (someone under) the Penal Code offence to accomplish a remand (of one of my clients). That’s an abuse of process. I have been instructed to challenge the provision of the Bail Act and seek damages.”
Adding to the problem, Mr Gomez said, is the precariousness of Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade’s position in the force.
The Tribune has reported that the Minnis administration is seeking to remove Commissioner Greenslade from his post and make him high commissioner to London.
This newspaper understands that since last week Commissioner Greenslade has been on vacation leave and is reportedly expected to leave office in late August.
The Minnis administration, which came to power on a promise to be transparent, has so far failed to discuss Commissioner Greenslade’s future despite the media’s repeated requests for comment.
Asked yesterday about Commissioner Greenslade, Anthony Newbold, the prime minister’s press secretary, declined to comment on whether the government is seeking to replace him but said Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ferguson is the acting commissioner of police while the head of the RBPF is on vacation.
Weighing in on the matter, Mr Gomez said: “Given what is being reported about Mr Greenslade, that is negotiations to have him leave his independent post to take up a position working directly under the prime minister, what’s happening now is causing great disquiet because many people suspect that the system is being abused.”