Oct 01, 2022 News
Court orders GPSCCU to adhere to members call for Special General Meeting by October 24
…respondents to pay $1M in cost, face jail time for non-compliance
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – After feuding factions of the Guyana Public Service Co-Operative Credit Union (GPSCCU) failed to host a special general meeting on request of their members, High Court Judge Justice Navindra Singh has ordered that the special engagement be held no later than October 24, and that the respondents pay $1M in cost, while threatening jail time for those who don’t adhere to the ruling.
Information from Attorney-at-law Roysdale Forde, SC, who represented the applicants, states that the High Court granted the orders sought by GPSCCU members Mehalai McAlmont, Keith Marks and Natasha Duran, to have the organisation and its Committee of Management hold the special meeting which is in keeping with the law. He explained that Justice Singh in his judgment stated that Regulation 16 of The Cooperative Society Act permitted the Applicants as members of the cooperative society to demand a special general meeting. He said that in making their case, the court recognised the applicants had satisfied the requirement for the number of members necessary for the holding of the special meeting; that is more than 25 names which were secured as per the legal requirement.
In addressing the defence’s case, Forde said the Court highlighted that the Respondents were being disingenuous by stating that the Applicants had failed to satisfy Regulation 16. “The Court also rejected the Respondents argument that the issue of a special general meeting constituted a dispute and it was therefore caught by section 49 of the Cooperative Societies Act. The Court stated that Section 49 clearly did not cover the issue of a special general meeting,” Forde said. He said that the Court submitted further that the Respondents cannot be allowed to subvert the legislation, neither are they allowed to stop short and appoint a new Chairman and then say that the Applicants must start the process all over again. The Court ruled, therefore, that “the Committee of Management issue a new notice within 10 days of the date of the Order (September 30th) scheduling a Special General Meeting to be held no later than the 24th October, 2022.” Forde said that the Court also ordered $1 million in cost to be paid by Rajdai Jaganauth, Leslyn Noble, Ruth Howard and Karen Vanslutyman by the 22nd October, 2022.
The court ruling comes just months after dissatisfied members of the GPSCCU challenged the Management Committee for ignoring their call for the special meeting. The issue all started with the removal of Trevor Benn as the chairman of the Committee. It was noted that the majority of Committee members had voted to have Benn removed as head of the Board; a decision that was said to be taken in the absence of the then chairman. The Committee had highlighted a few reasons for their decisions, which the members felt were frivolous to warrant the removal of the chairman. The Management Committee had said that Benn became hostile towards them when they refused to allow him to merge the office of the chairmanship with that of the organisation’s Chief Executive Office. They claimed that he had also made public sensitive information relating to the organisation.
Their excuses were obviously not enough for the members of the cooperative body because Benn was later able to secure over 200 names of members, way more than the 25 that is required, to call for a special general meeting. During the signing of the petition which was done in the vicinity of the GPSCCU building, several members expressed dissatisfaction at the removal of Benn as chairman. They were especially upset since they submitted that Benn’s position on the Committee had seen numerous changes effected. Apart from some physical and operational upgrades at the organisation, members were particularly excited over the availability of loans for housing and vehicle purchases; opportunities which they said were not so easily available to public servants who the body serves.
Several persons spoke of the benefits of the new provisions. They spoke about upgrading and expanding their homes, while others spoke about being able to finance their homes for the first time. Since the removal of Benn from the Committee, the Kaieteur News was told that the provision was removed. The new chairman, Karen Vanslutyman-Corbin said that the loans were put on pause as it was being reviewed.
Patrick Mentore, while acting as chairman in Benn’s removal, had issued a date for the special general meeting after the Committee received the member’s signatures asking for the meeting within 14 days. Another faction of the Committee rescinded the notice for the meeting, which forced the organisation’s members to approach the court. It should be noted that the members have already stated their intention to vote out the entire Management Committee. In their petition, the members’ advised that the objective of the proposed meeting “shall be to vote for or against the recall of the Committee of Management of the GPSCCU…” Further, without prejudice, the petition said, it recommends that “the following nine officers not be re-elected to serve on the Committee of Management: Ms. Gillian Pollard – Secretary, Ms. Karen Vansluytman-Corbin, Ms. Ruth Howard, Ms. O. Saskia Eastman-Onwuzirike, Mr. Charles Ogle, Mr. Kirwyn Mars, Jermain Hermanstyne, Ms. Leslyn Noble and Mr. Arthur Gibbs.” The members demanded that the meeting be held virtually and in-person in all 10 Administrative Regions, utilising the same mechanism used to conduct the 2021 Annual General Meeting at which the present Committee of Management members were elected, and that the same e-voting service provider be utilised.
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