The Opposition has condemned the recent establishment of a tribunal to investigate Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Carvil Duncan. This tribunal has been handed sweeping powers.
Denouncing the tribunal, the Office of The Leader of the Opposition said that it smacks of witch-hunting and arbitrariness.
On Thursday, President David Granger swore in three persons– Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire; Justice (ret’d) Winston Patterson, and Attorney-at-Law, Robert Ramcharran to inquire, investigate and recommend whether Duncan should be removed from office for inability to discharge his duties.
The statement said that the establishment of the tribunal was triggered by the institution of fraud charges against Duncan earlier this year.
“These charges are still pending before a Magistrate of the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court. The very Constitution that the President pledges to follow ‘in spirit and letter’ confers upon Mr Duncan a presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a court of law,” the Office of the Leader of the Opposition said.
It was noted that since the charges against Duncan are still pending, the establishment of the tribunal is premature, pre-emptive and repugnant to the very “due process” to which the President says that his administration is committed.
The Opposition said that it believes that Duncan is being targeted because he blocked Government from dismissing a number of public servants.
“It is public knowledge that Mr Duncan has been a stumbling block at the Public Service Commission, preventing this Administration from dismissing public servants on ethnic and political grounds and blocking the hiring of unqualified cronies.”
The office made it clear that the establishment of the tribunal will have a prejudicial impact upon the pending legal proceedings, as the President has sent a clear signal to the presiding Magistrate what outcome the executive expects.
“In these circumstances, we view the establishment of this tribunal as a travesty of justice and an assault upon constitutional due process and the fundamental rights of Carvil Duncan and the thousands of workers whose interests and welfare he protects.”
The official has been facing pressure to resign after he was slapped with fraud charges earlier this year.
Those charges stemmed from findings that he, as director of the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL), took it upon himself to pay himself almost $1M in backpay.
Former Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Aeshwar Deonarine, who has since fled the country, was also accused of conspiring with Duncan to pay himself more than $27M.
The case against Duncan is currently before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, and in the closing stages.
The tribunal would have to determine whether Duncan is also physically and mentally capable of running the commission, a senior Government official confirmed yesterday.
The commission is critical, having been tasked with making appointments to public offices and to remove and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such Offices.
Its responsibilities include recruitment, promotions, dismissals; resignations; secondment, reclassifications and transfers.
In April, there were calls for Duncan to step down from the commission.
Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, in a Government statement, said that he had written to the trade unionist requesting that he show cause why a tribunal should not be established, as provided for by Article 225 of the Constitution of Guyana, to address the question of his removal from the constitutional offices.
Duncan not only sits as Chairman of that commission, he is also a member of the Police Service Commission and of the Judicial Service Commission.
Nagamootoo advised Duncan, in the letter, that the procedure has been invoked on the basis that the offences for which he has been charged, place him in a position where it is necessary for him to defend the charges before the court.
”And further, that there is concern that during this period he will be unable to perform the duties imposed upon him by the Constitution, in relation to the aforementioned constitutional offices that he holds.”
Nagamootoo advised Duncan that he regarded the letter as his opportunity to inform the exercise of his (the Prime Minister’s) discretion to advise President David Granger whether to establish the tribunal.
The letter was dispatched on March 29, 2016 and the Prime Minister requested a response within 14 days of receipt. A defiant Duncan, however, has resisted the calls to step down.
”I do not see it that way. The matter is being looked at by my lawyer,” Duncan had told Kaieteur News in an invited comment back in February.
That month, Duncan was placed on $1M bail after he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The Prime Minister had said then, that he believes that it’s up to the embattled Duncan to do the honorable thing and remove himself from the Constitutional Commissions he currently sits on.
Duncan holds top positions in the Guyana Labour Union and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), two bodies that aligned itself with the previous administration.
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