A ruling on the legality of a Presidential respite which pardoned Finance Minister Winston Jordan from 21 days imprisonment after he was held in Contempt of Court over failure to pay out a US$2.2M judgment has been pushed back to March 04. The sum represents monie
s owed to DIPCON by the previous government for road construction works.
In proceedings filed on July 18, 2019, in which the Attorney General and President David Granger are listed as Respondents, DIPCON, through its lawyer Timothy Jonas, asked the court to issue an Order of Certiorari quashing the decision of the President to grant Jordan a respite for the indefinite period terminating upon the expiry of all appeals from the execution of the punishment of imprisonment for 21 days imposed by the High Court Judge Priya Sewnarine-Beharry.
Before Justice Nareshwar Harnanan, DIPCON contends that the President’s decision is so flawed in law that it amounts to nullity and is improper, unreasonable, irrational and ultra vires and in excess of jurisdiction. The company contends that no reason or respectable argument has been or can be advanced in support of the President’s decision.
In October 2015, Justice Gino Persaud had ruled that DIPCON recover the sum
from Government as monies due to the engineering company for infrastructural works done under the then PPP previous administration. Obviously dissatisfied with the judgment of Justice Persaud, Attorney General Basil Williams filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal.
The appeal was a belated one and the Court of Appeal dismissed it. But Williams then sought redress from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The CCJ, too, dismissed the appeal noting that it was not filed within the prescribed time limit.
Notwithstanding these, the monies were still not paid and DIPCON by way of an action applied to the court and was granted an Order of Mandamus by Chief Justice Roxane George directing that the monies be made to DIPCON on or before January 15, 2019. This was not forthcoming and DIPCON instituted contempt of court proceedings against the Minister.
On June 24, last, Justice Sewnarine-Beharry issued a contempt order to have Minister Jordan imprisoned for 21 days if he fails to pay the monies to DIPCON on or before Monday, July 8. Following the Contempt Order, Attorney General Williams appealed to the Full Court to set aside and/or reverse the order of Justice Sewnarine-Beharry.
However, the Full Court, in a ruling dated July 5, 2019 held that Williams’ application had no merit and dismissed the appeal and even rejected a stay of the contempt order which was requested by Williams. But four days later, the President issued a Grant of Respite in the Official Gazette signed by Minister of State Dawn Hastings which gave Jordan in his personal capacity, and as the Minister of Finance, respite of the execution of punishment imposed on him by the judge.
Under Prerogative of Mercy at Article 188(1) (b) of the Constitution of Guyana, the President has the powers to issue such a grant of respite. According to Section 188 (1) The President may— (a) grant to any person concerned in or convicted of any offence under the law of Guyana, a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions; (b) 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. Anyway, the grant of respite remains in effect until all appeals and remedies available to the Finance Minister and the State have been exhausted.
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