St. John’s Antigua- Police hierarchy have launched an internal investigation into a breakdown of communication which resulted in the force’s failure to provide security for individuals they authorised to march against government’s handling of the controversial Wadadli Power Plant deal and the fencing scandal.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Henry Christian, who is acting commissioner in the absence of Vere Browne, said he is awaiting a report on what caused the blunder, given that plans were in place to cover the public march organised by self proclaimed ‘Minister of Helps’ Eugene Humphreys.
Consequent to the absence of the police, Humphreys and his troop of approximately six supporters decided not to proceed with the march.
“Up to yesterday morning (Thursday) it was confirmed that everything was in place for the march and for us to cover the march but I cannot say what happened in the afternoon. I am investigating where the breakdown occurred and I am still awaiting the report to reach my desk,” the acting commissioner said. “I would not wish to speculate on what happened.”
Acting Superintendent Alvin Davis is the officer in charge of A Division/St John’s and he is charged with overseeing public marches and rallies in that district. Supt (ag) Thomas has been in the post since mid-March this year.
Meanwhile, as the acting commissioner awaits a report, Humphreys said he would write National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort asking for a probe into the reason behind the absence of police.
Humphreys charged that the lawmen might have been deliberate, as he noted he applied for permission to march several times and all but his final application last week were turned down.
The police had backed their decision not to allow Humphreys to march with his own report of a threat on his life.
Early yesterday, Humphreys blamed Commissioner Vere Browne for the lack of police security at his rally, but he later apologised after he learned the top cop is off island.
Meantime, a legal source said while there is no law that explicitly mandates the police to be present at a public march, the need for police presence is implied in Section 23 of the Police Act.
Section 23 (1) (a) of the Act states, “It shall be the duty of all police officers to preserve the peace and prevent and detect crimes and other infractions of the law…” among other things.
The source also pointed to sections 10 to 14 of the Public Order Act that outline the process of applying for permission to march and what requirements ought to be met.
The legal source said Humphreys could have proceeded with his authorised march but it was wise for him to refrain from exercising the right in the absence of police.
Police would have been needed to control traffic and maintain order by patrolling the streets through which the group was authorised to march.
Humphreys said his march was aimed at government and he wants answers regarding the US$47 million Chinese Power Plant government secured without Cabinet approval.
The power plant controversy arose earlier this year when photographic images emerged suggesting the equipment at the recently commissioned facility are old.
As it relates to the fencing scandal, it is alleged that between 2007 and the elections of 2009, the Ministry of Sports entered into more than 100 contracts costing millions to build fences, viewing stands, roundabouts, bathrooms, parking aprons and sundry projects.
All the projects were allegedly over-priced and not one was approved by the Tenders Board nor the Development Control Authority.