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“We have a right to protect taxpayers’ money”

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"We have a right to protect taxpayers’ money"

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo –AG flays ‘PSC’s hypocritical’ stance on Dipcon matter …PM says judge’s action smacks of vendetta By Gabriella Chapman

Attorney General Basil Williams ATTORNEY General, Basil Williams, has flayed the Private Sector Commission (PSC) for what he deemed as their biased stance regarding the Dipcon court matter, saying that the umbrella business body has now become an adjunct political entity and must first appraise itself of the facts before making statements.

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On Tuesday, the PSC, in a statement, said that it has observed, with great concern, what it described as “the deliberate and repeated refusal on the part of the government, to honour the judgment of the court with regard to a payment owed to Dipcon Engineering Services Ltd., since 2009. ” The body said the rule of law must prevail if business is to be conducted “in our country with confidence in the government’s respect for the judiciary and a separation of powers between the Executive and courts. The private sector must, at all times, be confident that the principles of sanctity of contracts reinforced by the independence of the courts will be honoured by the State.

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PSC Chairman, Gerry Gouveia However, in response, Minister Williams said that he is surprised that PSC is attacking the government for defending taxpayers’ money. “We have a right to protect taxpayers’ money, especially when judgment is obtained under suspicious circumstances. It’s hypocritical and it’s self-serving of PSC.” Williams queried whether the PSC approves that Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, should be sued in his personal capacity to pay a debt of the State? Even as he asserted that all the government was doing was pursuing the law. He said it was an abuse of the process of the court to entertain a claim against a minister in his personal capacity.

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“How could they (PSC) be unconcerned that the judiciary is actually going against the law of the land to move against the minister? We could then sue the Chancellor for debts of the Judiciary, and sue Gerry Gouveia for the debts of the Private Sector Commission,” AG exclaimed.

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He further noted that the particular case under question is a case which started under the last government, and when they lost the elections and coalition took over, the case was never brought to the attention of the new leaders until months after the judgment was passed. And by then, the time for appealing the judgment had long passed.

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“We had a good case because the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works said that the man who was claiming the money, had already been paid, and had been paid more than what they were claiming. We have also seen signs of the judiciary being used for money laundering purposes, where claims are made for large sums of money, and they rest for a while in there and then somebody comes out the blue and settles the matter without any arguments. This was even confirmed at a meeting by the registrar of the Supreme Court,” the AG disclosed.

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Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry He further contended that the reason why the past government never paid those judgments is “because you can’t levy against the State and it is listed under the State Liabilities and Proceedings Act, neither can the court grant a coercive order on an officer of the State.” Government has already taken the stance where they will exhaust all their remedies in this matter to have their case fairly heard

Government on Tuesday in a statement said it endorsed the action taken by President David Granger to issue a Grant of Respite exempting Jordan from punishment in his private capacity, for judgments incurred prior to his appointment as minister. “Cabinet condemns the unprecedented and scurrilous attack on a serving Minister of Government by seeking to imprison him in his private capacity. Cabinet calls on the courts to protect the Executive from vexatious and partisan action,” the Ministry of the Presidency said in a statement

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo weighed in on the matter on Wednesday saying the action of the judge was “frivolous, vexatious and lacked merit”. Prime Minister Nagamootoo, himself an attorney-at-law, noted, “you do not go after a person when a matter is against the State. You cannot enforce that decision by going after a minister; it is going to open our processes to abuse.”

SMACKS OF VENDETTA He explained that the law presumes that persons who perform certain acts in their official function are not liable in person. The prime minister opined that the judge’s action, “smacks of vendetta. For me, it is a kind of judicial wrath for us to talk about imprisoning a minister of the government, who was exercising his function officially.”

He equated the judge’s decision to that of judicial wrath. “We [government] believe this attack on the minister’s integrity was unwarranted. It was unwelcomed, and we want to say very openly that all members of the Cabinet, all his ministerial colleagues, believe that he has done nothing wrong. He is completely exonerated from any shadow or doubt. He is honourable and has received our full support.”

“I personally hope I can get my day at the Appeal Court to find out whether indeed this is a situation that can happen, where a minister can be sued, in his personal capacity, to pay a judgement that has been made against the State. If that were to be upheld by the Appeal Court, then many of us will begin to rethink our public service, if you can be held for something that you never did.”