It is a misconception that the Constitution gives precedence to judges for appointment to Gecom Chairman

I have followed with more than passing interest the debate on the interpretation of Article 161 of the Constitution which deals with the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom). Article 161 (1) requires the Chairman to be full-time and mandates that he shall not engage in any other employment. The real debate however has been in relation to Article 161 (2) which deals exclusively with the Chairman and his appointment.

For brevity, let me state that 161 (2) sets out the classes of persons eligible for appointment as Chairman as: current or former judges, persons qualified to be appointed as a judge (which is seven years after admission to the Bar) or other fit and proper person. The persons shall be named in a list submitted to the President by the Leader of the Opposition, not unacceptable to the President. Article 161 (2) has a proviso which states that if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list, the President will appoint as Chairman a judge, former judge or one qualified to be a judge. Continue reading It is a misconception that the Constitution gives precedence to judges for appointment to Gecom Chairman

Phillips misrepresented the contents of the SARA Bill

Messrs Eric Phillips in a letter dated February 28, and on the newspaper’s Blog, and Tacuma Ogunseye in a letter dated March 1, 2017, both employed in the State Asset Recovery Unit, threw caution, logic, facts and decency to the wind in defence of their boss, Professor Clive Thomas. Based on a subsequent telephone call I made to Mr Ogunseye, a friend of many, many years, it appears that his problem with me is a concern that I am engaged in the formation of a third party.

I never thought that the exercise of a democratic right of a citizen would cause such concern to a genuine freedom and resistance fighter, and I can only guess at the effect political power, absolute loyalty and employment have on people. While it is my right to engage in political activity of my choice, to put Mr Ogunseye’s mind at ease, I assured him that I am not and have not been involved in any discussion or plan to establish a political party. Continue reading Phillips misrepresented the contents of the SARA Bill

If the SARA Bill is not radically restructured it will be challenged in the courts

Professor Clive Thomas has a deserved reputation as an outstanding economist, particularly in sugar and monetary economics, a champion for bread and justice, for human rights and for free and fair elections. Perhaps because of this, his professional reputation remained intact despite his role as co-leader of the Working People’s Alliance to which he was elected in 1985, which I believe was the last time the WPA held any internal party elections.

Prof Thomas represents the WPA in the APNU leadership and since May 2015, has held prominent positions as Presidential Adviser on sustainable development, Chairman of GuySuCo and Director of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU). While his contribution as an adviser is unclear, his role in sugar and SARU has done little to match his academic reputation.

He was a prominent member of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in the sugar industry and the sole author of Volume 2 of the Report ‒ the Financial/Economic Analysis. Yet, not only has he never publicly accepted any responsibility for or association with the Report, but as GuySuCo’s Chairman, he has acted contrary to positions he took as a member of the Commission. On top of that, he appears not to have advanced a single solution to sugar’s problems, leaving it once again to the politicians. Sugar is in the same messy and uncertain state as when he assumed leadership of GuySuCo.

Still, it is Dr Thomas’s role in SARU that causes the greatest concern. Continue reading If the SARA Bill is not radically restructured it will be challenged in the courts

PPP/C’s Income Tax Act amendment is also unconstitutional

The Stabroek News of Friday January 6, 2017, reported that two parliamentary representatives of the PPP/C criticised but abstained from voting on an amendment to the Value-Added Tax giving the Commissioner General the right to prevent persons, through the Chief Immigration Officer, from leaving the country once they owed VAT.

And in the letter columns of the Stabroek News of January 7, former Attorney General, Mr Anil Nandlall returns to the issue with a reasoned argument whether the amendment violates the Constitution and is therefore void (‘Section 45 of the VAT Act is unconstitutional’).

This is interesting because in 1993 then PPP/C Finance Minister, Mr Asgar Ally inserted by way of an amendment to section 71 of the Income Tax Act a new provision that is arguably more dangerous than the APNU+AFC’s amended VAT provision. Taking Mr Nandlall’s argument, it means that the PPP/C’s amendment to the Income Tax Act is, at best, on the same tenuous constitutional ground as the APNU+AFC’s amendment to the VAT legislation.

Garnishment and Distress Proceedings

Two proposals announced in 2017 Budget Speech – inserting into the Income Tax Act distress proceedings similar to the provision in the Value-Added Tax (VAT) Act, and garnishment of funds in bank accounts for the settlement of tax arrears – have caught the national attention. The discussion has not been helped by the misinformed and misguided statements in the media, even by columnists and persons who have a duty to be better informed.

That failure which is the cause of much of the confusion, misinformation and “noise”, has led to a situation whereby two very different provisions are conflated and wrong premises are used to defend or justify the two proposals. They should be addressed separately. Here is why.

The terms garnishment and distress are of significant legal and constitutional import and depending on circumstances may have different application to action against the person (in personam) and against the thing or property (in rem). As these matters apply to our Constitution they also raise the tension, if not the clash, between, on the one hand, Article 65 which grants to Parliament the power to “make laws for the peace, order and good government” and on the other hand, Article 142 which protects property rights subject to exceptions, as well as Article 8 which makes void any law inconsistent with the Constitution. Continue reading Garnishment and Distress Proceedings