President invokes executive power to prevent Finance Minister from serving jail time

first_imgJordan’s contempt sentence…interference sends bad signal to investors – JagdeoFinance Minister Winston Jordan had been depending on a reprieve from President David Granger to save him from prison over an unpaid court judgement and on Monday, the President used an executive order to shield the Minister.The executive order issued by the President on the same day his Finance Minister was staring jail in the faceSaved: President David Granger and Finance Minister Winston JordanThe President issued the grant of respite in keeping with his powers under Article 188 of the Constitution. According to the order, Jordan was granted his reprieve “until all appeals and remedies available to him and the State were exhausted”.Article 188 (b) of the Constitution of Guyana says the President may “grant to any person a respite, either indefinite or for a specified period, of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence”.Earlier on Monday, Jordan had acknowledged the July 8 deadline for him to pay a US$2 million court awarded judgement to Dipcon Engineering. Jordan had, however, expressed the view that he should not be responsible in his personal financial capacity for the State being sued when the matter is an inherited one.Jordan also revealed that the President had been approached in order to grant an executive order protecting him from jail. Asked whether he was prepared to pay the money, he had adopted a “wait-and-see attitude”.Bad for businessIn a statement through social media, Opposition Leader and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo slammed the President’s intervention in a case between Jordan and a private company owed millions from a court judgement dating back to 2015.“We Guyanese, having observed President Granger in action over the past four years, have collectively come to the belief that on matters of policy and when dealing with evidence of corruption by those within his government, he is often unable to move with any sort of alacrity, that he is slow and aloof.“Today he has shattered this belief by moving with lightning speed to thwart a court order and (reprieve) Winston Jordan. Granger’s move to avert settlement on this instance should be contrasted against the multimillion-dollar settlements in matters which involved cronies of the [A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change] APNU/AFC,” the Opposition Leader said.Jagdeo also pointed to the use of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), which sent Dipcon a letter ordering it to pay $527 million in owed taxes. According to the former President, this sends a bad signal to investors and damages an already struggling investment climate.“Today’s (Monday’s) action, therefore, sends a signal that contracts can be broken at will, orders of the court against the State, even in commercial disputes, can be ignored at will and that the executive powers of the President can be invoked to protect those in his inner circle who are the violators.“All Government guarantees for loans are now worthless. Government debt is now bad debt. Once again, the protection of the APNU/AFC cabal ranks higher than the rule of law,” he also stated.Legal battleMeanwhile, the Attorney General’s Chambers has since filed an appeal of the Full Court’s decision to reject its earlier attempts to stay the court order. According to the appeal, Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry “misdirected herself in a number of points when she rejected them”.Among the contentions are a regurgitation of the previous argument they made that Dipcon’s court action fell under public law and, therefore, Jordan should not be liable in his personal capacity.Advisory Council on the Prerogative of MercyArticle 188 of the Constitution of Guyana empowers the President to grant to convicted persons, a state pardon, either conditionally or otherwise or grant a respite of the execution of the punishment imposed or substitute a less severe punishment.However, in an article published by the Ministry of the Presidency in 2016, it was pointed out that the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy, under Article 189, is therefore mandated to advise the President on the aforementioned. The Prerogative of Mercy is usually exercised in response to a petition from a convicted person or someone acting on their behalf and by constitutional convention on advice from the relevant Government Minister. In Jordan’s case, it was not clear if President Granger engaged that council before invoking his executive powers on Monday.Jail timeLast month, High Court Judge, Justice Sewnarine-Beharry had ordered Minister Jordan to pay Dipcon the US$2.2 million award or face jail time. The Trinidad-based construction company had taken the Finance Minister to court for failing to honour the payment of millions of dollars, which was awarded to Dipcon by Justice Rishi Persaud in 2015.After Dipcon took the Government to court back in 2009 to recover monies owed for road works done, Justice Persaud had ordered Government to pay the company US$665,032.17 as payment for the works done along with US$1,563,368.50 for costs it incurred for those works, together with interest on both amounts, at a rate of six per cent annum from February 10, 2009, to October 21, 2015 and thereafter at the rate of four per cent per annum until fully paid.The Government has previously claimed that the previous Government had outsourced the case and when the coalition got into office, it was taken by surprise by the matter. But former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has repeatedly explained that when he left office, he briefed his successor on all outstanding matters.According to Nandlall, the Attorney General failed to file an appeal of the Rishi Persaud judgement in time, but rather, filed an application several months late asking for an extension of time. This application was denied by the court.However, since none of the payments it was owed was made, Dipcon had successfully approached the High Court for an administrative order to compel the Minister to make the payment.On Friday, Justices Diana Insanally and Simone Morris-Ramlall threw out Jordan’s application, filed by Attorney General Williams, for a stay of the court order. In their judgement, the Judges expressed their view that his application had no merit.last_img read more