– “His actions clearly leave the nation’s tax information open for “abuse at any time”
After careful analysis of the recent “devious attacks” by the country’s tax chief, Khurshid Sattaur, and former president
Bharrat Jagdeo, to destroy the Kaieteur News, General Secretary of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Joseph Harmon deduced that it is clear that “Sattaur thinks he is in the Wild, Wild West and his office is his ammunition.”
He is also of the belief that the tax chief’s actions amount to terrorism and that “he has inflicted diseases on the GRA, those being—disregard for professional ethics, disregard for the rights of citizens to confidentiality, disregard for integrity that his office should have, and most of all a blatant disrespect to the fourth estate’s right to freedom of speech and the country’s right to democracy. They are now spreading to the other ministries.”
The lawyer said that as someone who stands firm for transparency and accountability, he is left with no choice but to put the necessary steps in place to bring a “malfeasance in office” charge against the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
Over the past weeks, several email between Jagdeo and Sattaur which exposed their apparent plot to “close down” the newspaper, hit the news pages. Sattaur had sent the former president the tax information of several news entities. This information was then forwarded to Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.
Many have said that it is, without a doubt, an undeniable breach of the Oath of Secrecy that was taken by the Chartered Accountant. Since the revelations by this newspaper, calls have been unending for Sattaur’s immediate resignation.
In light of the publications of the damning evidence, comments from political figures, accountants, lawyers and even the ordinary man have followed, particularly on how the Parliament and even institutions to which the tax chief is attached, should deal with him.
Harmon said, yesterday, that Sattaur, as the guardian of the country’s tax information, and as a Chartered Accountant,
ought to know that such behaviour would be highly intolerable. He said, too, that his coalition considers Sattaur’s actions to be a most “sickening and frightening prospect for the people of Guyana”.
The APNU General Secretary said that it is imperative that the charge be brought against Sattaur so that anyone who is to take Sattaur’s position would know that it is not an untouchable office and that once certain offences are committed, the office holder would be answerable to the court.
“What kind of example is Sattaur really setting for those to follow? He may not be aware of it now but it is unfortunate that he is leaving a stench and a stain on the integrity and credibility of his office that will not be gotten rid of by his resignation.
“The fear Sattaur has put into the people of this country must be eradicated. The right and just way is by passing him through the court and I am getting the necessary work done for the right charges to be brought against him. I am a far way with it and I am not just making a call for him to resign. He has to pass through the court,” Harmon said.
Harmon explained that malfeasance in office is when an officer commits a particular act, in Sattaur’s case, through malice, knowing that he has no legal right to do that. The APNU parliamentarian said that Sattaur’s actions reflect an abuse of power.
Harmon has said that the newspaper will have his coalition’s “unwavering support in the fight for democracy against the powers that may be”.
“APNU views Sattaur’s behaviour as not only an attack on the Kaieteur News but a clear disrespect and disregard for the Constitutional rights of citizens to access information. We will stand firm by Kaieteur News.
“We want to put the government and Sattaur on notice that we will not sit idly by and watch them violate the rights of
citizens. The government’s inaction in light of Sattaur’s behaviour reflects full support of such scales of lawlessness by public officials,” the APNU executive said.
Harmon said that Sattaur’s actions clearly leave the nation’s tax information open for “abuse at any time”.
The Alliance For Change (AFC) also issued a statement in which it expressed dissatisfaction over the dilemma.
AFC, at a recent meeting to plan for General Elections next year, addressed the Kaieteur News situation.
“The meeting also expressed solidarity with Kaieteur News which is being subjected to attempts to muzzle it as a member of the free press.”
Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Nigel Hughes, recently stated that he believes that the National Assembly should address with urgency the breach of the “Oath of Secrecy” by the Commissioner General.
It has always been the suspicion, since independence, that the tax department has been used as an instrument in which citizens have been threatened if they criticize the administration, he said.
“But now, we have confirmation that the department has made itself available to the Government of the day for use against the citizenry and that is really the most frightening aspect of it. I believe because of this magnitude, the Parliament needs to address this as a matter of urgency,” Hughes stated.
Hughes added that Sattaur’s actions to close down one of the prominent members of the fourth estate, Kaieteur News, in such a manner is an issue that the Parliament ought to address as a matter of grave importance.
AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, had also said that the party has already begun sharing its views on the matter with the diplomatic community.
Ramjattan had said that his party plans to send the information to organizations such as CARICOM, the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
He said that this was being done to externalize the kind of misconduct that is being condoned by “top notch administrators” in Guyana.
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