Dec 04, 2015 News
By Kiana Wilburg
If no action on the reports of the Ombudsman is taken, then what is the point of having one?
This sums up the position put forward recently by Presidential Advisor on Sustainable Development, Dr. Clive Thomas.
He said that it has been over ten months since Ombudsman Winston Moore released two damning reports on various injustices that occurred under the People’s Progressive Party administration and no action has been taken by the institutions involved or the state.
Thomas emphasized that it is important for the findings and recommendations of Moore’s reports to be dealt with, as further procrastination would only serve to undermine efforts for good governance at various levels.
The Presidential Advisor in a recent interview with Kaieteur News said, that the Ombudsman’s office is one that should be respected. Failure to act on his findings represents “total disregard for the people, for his office as well as the importance of ensuring justice is served.”
He reminded that one report deals with the issue of Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon and the University of Guyana.
Kissoon was on a contract with the University of Guyana, but it was abruptly terminated by the tertiary institution in January 18, 2012. This was in spite of the fact that Kissoon’s contract had five months remaining, at the end of which, he would have reached the age of retirement.
The University said that it merely ended the contract earlier – eight months before the contract
expired. The contract stipulated that it could be terminated and three months’ salary paid in lieu of notice.
Kissoon did not hear from the University despite several efforts for a reason for why his contract was terminated prematurely.
Following a complaint lodged last year with the Office of the Ombudsman, UG was notified that the newspaper columnist’s contract termination breached UG’s regulations and that he should be compensated.
Ombudsman Moore, in a letter dated December 22, last, to now retired Registrar, Vincent Alexander, stated, “This office has been advised that Mr Kissoon was wrongfully dismissed, his dismissal being in breach of Statute 25 of the University of Guyana Statutes which provides for notice and a hearing, as pre-conditions for dismissal. In the circumstances Mr Kissoon is entitled to compensation from the university.”
Since the Ombudsman made this pronouncement on January 6, last, no action has been by the institution to compensate Kissoon.
Moore had also ruled on another controversial matter relating to the New Building Society (NBS).
The Office of the Ombudsman concluded in November last year that police wrongfully charged the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and two of his managers for an alleged $69M fraud at the New Building Society, in 2006.
The explosive document by the public complaint office was based on complaints by Maurice Arjoon, the former CEO.
Arjoon, in his complaint, said that he and two managers, Kissoon Baldeo, and Kent Vincent, were deliberately and maliciously charged by police for a $69M scam.
Arjoon said that he believed that the trumped-up fraud charges, later dismissed in the Magistrates’ Court, stemmed from his refusal to lend $2B for the construction of the Berbice River Bridge.
The former Government had been seeking financing for the project. Arjoon reportedly told his Board of Directors that the regulations barred the institution from lending that much. NBS voted to invest $350M in the project.
Arjoon claimed that his refusal to illegally lend the $2B angered former President Bharrat Jagdeo, who was in power at that time.
Arjoon, who has been insisting his innocence from day one, said in his complaints that over seven years were taken away from his life.
Justice Moore, who has sweeping powers to investigate abuse by public officers, hired former Deputy Commissioner of Police, Henry Chester, DSM, who, in reviewing a copy of the police files, found that based on the evidence, there was no way that the three men could have been charged.
It was also found that the police files did not include a key exhibit.
Arjoon had filed a high court action to overturn the decision of NBS to dismiss him saying that he lost his benefits as a result.
The explosive report raised serious questions about the rush by the police to lay charges, the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the role played by the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana.
The publication of excerpts of the report has seen former Minister of Labour, Dr. Nanda Gopaul, denying that he had a conversation with the former Chief Executive Officer that Jagdeo was upset with him.
Since the report was laid in the National Assembly, nothing has happened.
Dr. Thomas says that this is just totally unacceptable and action should not be delayed any longer.
He emphasized that any democratic government practicing good governance would take the reports as an indication of the type of action that needs to be undertaken if it requires such by the state or institutions within the state.
“Look at what happened with Freddie and UG. The Institution should not have hesitated for one minute in ensuring justice is served. UG has a responsibility to ensure that action is taken on the Ombudsman’s report. And the Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine should use that influence to ensure that the ruling of the Ombudsman is upheld. Arjoon and others should also get justice.”
Dr Thomas continued, “It is imperative that we pay attention and act expeditiously when the Ombudsman’s office highlights when injustices have occurred. The powerful principle upon which his office was established was to be the protector of the citizen’s rights.
“We have to ensure that his recommendations are enforced at all times and in whatever ways we can. We cannot appear to equivocate in the face of the rulings otherwise, what is the real purpose of his office and having him there?”
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