Mar 10, 2013 News
While both parliamentary opposition parties have signaled disapproval regarding the monies awarded to Lindeners by the Commission of Inquiry (COI); and while Region Ten Chairman, Sharma Solomon, has dubbed the compensation “woefully inadequate,” the government is saying that increased compensation is not an option for consideration.
The Commission of Inquiry, launched to bring closure to the shooting death of three Lindeners and the wounding of many others which resulted in a month of unrest, was recently concluded.
Commissioners were Justice Lensley Wolfe and Senior Counsel Keith. D Knight of Jamaica and Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal of Trinidad and Tobago all of whom were nominated by the CARICOM Secretariat, and from Guyana, Justices Claudette Singh and Cecil Kennard.
In total, a little over $33.8 in compensation was awarded to those affected during the protest. Of that, $8M went to relatives of the three slain Lindeners. Relatives of Shemroy Bouyea will receive $3M, the relatives of Allan Lewis will also receive $3M while the relatives of Ron Somerset have been awarded $2M.
Solomon, speaking at a press conference on Thursday at the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) said that the commission, headed by retired Jamaican Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe, should reveal the criteria used to arrive at the compensation.
He said, “While we welcome the general outcome of the CoI, we are convinced that the criteria used by the CoI to assess compensation for death is clearly flawed.”
However, government made its position clear that it will not budge to increase compensations. Attorney General Anil Nandlall, on an NCN programme last Friday, said that he will not second judge the compensatory awards made by the Linden Commission of Inquiry.
He explained the legal principles which guided the commissioners in arriving at their decision and questioned Sharma’s credentials to query the decision.
“These Commissioners include a former Chancellor of the Judiciary of Guyana, a former Chief Justice of Jamaica, and a Justice of Appeal of Guyana to name only three; these eminent jurists would have together heard and determined hundreds of cases of this type during their careers and would have done so with distinction. It is simply presumptuous for Solomon and others to advance such a contention,” the Legal Affairs Minister said.
“What qualifies Sharma Solomon, to second guess the competence of a former Chancellor? Who is Sharma in relation to those gentlemen and their career and experience?”
He then admitted, “It is impossible for anyone to contend that human life has a particular monetary value” and said that that’s the reason legal principles guided this process over the years.”
Nandlall said that those principles presumably were employed by the commissioners.
“The Government did not hand-pick these people. We engaged in a process which involved CARICOM … and they were selected after dialogue with the Opposition. So as far as possible, we tried at both the embryonic stages as well as when we were actually bringing the Commission into being …to ensure that all the political parties had an input,” the AG explained.
The AG said that one cannot disregard the individual and collective experience of the people who constituted the Commission, which was appointed by no less a person that the Head of State himself. As such, it is incumbent on the President and his Government to comply with the report in every respect.
He added that the lawyers who represented the families of the deceased persons and others who claimed compensation had ample opportunities to adduce evidence relevant to the issue of compensation.
“In any inquiry, decisions are arrived at based on existing evidence. It is impossible for anyone to contend that human life has a particular monetary value…over the years, legal principles had to have been evolved which are normally employed in assessing compensation when death, destruction to properties and personal injuries result. These principles are well-known to people in the legal profession,” the Legal Affairs Minister said.
He said that the compensatory awards were not made in isolation; but rather, they were made in relation to particular facts and circumstances.
Protest organizers should compensate
“Sharma Solomon should pay attention to the part of the report where it states that the organisers of this event must bear some responsibility for what transpired…this compensation will be paid using taxpayers’ dollars, which could have been used in the education and health sectors. The Government now has to divert this money away from such important projects to pay for compensation for something it did not organize,” he emphasized.
The AG explained that in addition to the compensation which has to be paid for those who died, the State is also burdened with the obligation to pay millions of dollars to those whose private properties were destroyed and will have to bear the cost to rebuild the State properties which were burnt and destroyed by the protestors. All of this is in addition to the huge cost the State had to endure for the Commission itself.
“Is this fair for the taxpayers who had nothing to do with this protest and may not have even supported it… their monies to be paid as compensation for the recklessness of the organizers of this event?” he questioned.
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