Former senior policeman feels that justice has been served
March 17, 2003
It was a painful 16-year battle to vindicate himself and to put an end to the ostracism by his family and friends, but former Assistant Police Com-missioner Hilton Cummings finally triumphed when he won a lawsuit for his wrongful dismissal from the Guyana Police Force (GPF), and was awarded over $1M in damages.
The ex-policeman now wants people to know he was not part of a 1985 incident involving missing boats.
“It was a painful battle for justice which lasted 16 years, and contributed to the death of my wife. My reputation was also damaged but now I’ve gotten justice.”
The ex-policeman’s wife, Leila, died a little over two years ago, and according to him, her death resulted partly from the stress she was forced to endure during the trial.
Cummings told Stabroek News that he had used some of the money won in judgement to build a rail around her gravesite. After her death, Cummings discovered several copies of letters she had written (unknown to him) making representations on his behalf in relation to the case.
Cummings also stated that his triumph marks the end of his `social exile’ which accompanied his dismissal as the matter cost him a number of friendships and caused some of his relatives to treat him with disdain.
Cummings was sacked shortly after the August 1985 disappearance of 12 wooden boats from the Springlands stelling. The boats and their uncustomed goods had been seized by army officials patrolling the Corentyne river. In an interview, the ex-policeman told Stabroek News, that the soldiers responsible for the interception of the boats and uncustomed goods, handed them over to the police at the Springlands station.
“At the time, the Customs Chief for Springlands was in the area and he took control of all the goods and acquired a truck which was used to transport them to Georgetown. [Meanwhile], I gave instructions for two armed ranks to be stationed at the Springlands stelling to guard the 12 boats, but the following day none of [the boats] could be found,” Cummings said.
He said a newspaper had carried a brief report which said the police and Customs had launched a search for the missing boats and this had caused a big furore in Georgetown. Cummings was subsequently summoned to the office of then Police Commissioner Balram Ragubir, and asked to show cause why he should not be fired immediately.
“I immediately sent a letter to the Commissioner saying, `I love the police force and I’m a loyal and dedicated Guyanese,’” Cummings recalled. However, six days later Cummings received a letter which stated that his services had been terminated under the Pensions Act.
According to Cummings, the PSC never summoned him to a hearing prior to his dismissal in accordance with standard procedure, and the ex-ACP was not charged with any specific offence at any time prior to his dismissal.
Cummings proceeded to contact a senior PSC official who told him that he was unaware of his dismissal, and the now deceased attorney Stanley Hardyal called the PSC and was informed that it was not known whether the ex-policeman had been dismissed.
The dismissal letter sent to Cummings indicated that he was discharged under the Pension Act “in the interest of the public” and any dismissal must coincide with the provisions of Article 212 of Guyana’s constitution. There is no mention of public interest in the aforesaid article, rather a specific allegation must be laid against you and one has to be appropriately disciplined for this. The head of state is the only person equipped with the relevant authority to dismiss a public servant in the interest of the public under Section 7 of Article 232 of the constitution and even then the individual is entitled to a fair hearing.
“It gave me the impression that the dismissal was hurriedly done by the Commissioner based on instructions received by someone in the [PSC] since the letter was signed by that body’s secretary, Ivor Hartman,” Cummings said.
Further, a visit to Hartman’s home by Cummings revealed that the PSC secretary was unaware that a letter of discharge had been sent to the ex-policeman.
Judgement in favour of Cummings was won five times in the court, and on December 19, 2001, the Court of Appeal ruled that all monies including salary, house allowance, commuted car allowance, leave pay for the period of three years and 4 months, respectively and all substantial costs, gratuity and pension should be paid in full in mid-July last year. Additionally, Cummings was given a discharge certificate by the GPF.