–says as chair of PSC, he transgressed workers’ rights
GENERAL Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Lincoln Lewis, has backed the setting up of a tribunal to investigate the conduct of fraud accused Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Carvil Duncan. He contends that under Duncan’s chairmanship of the PSC, the rights of many public servants were transgressed.
Lewis made his comments one day after Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo criticised President David Granger’s move last week to establish the tribunal. In a statement issued by his office, Jagdeo said the establishment of this tribunal was triggered by the institution of certain criminal charges against Duncan.
“These charges are still pending before a magistrate of the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts. 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 Opposition Leader said.
On Thursday last, President Granger swore in the three-member tribunal, in keeping with Article 225 of the Constitution of Guyana. Justice Roxane George will chair the tribunal. The other members are Justice (ret’d) Winston Patterson and Attorney-at-Law Robert Ramcharran.
The tribunal is expected to commence its work immediately, and render its report, findings and recommendations to President Granger on or before October 31, 2016.
In offering congratulations and appreciation to the tribunal for taking up this challenge, the Head of State said it is an indication that Guyana is a well-run country. “It represents the commitment of this Administration to due process. We are obliged that when matters are brought to our attention, the response should not be hasty, arbitrary, or whimsical; and that we follow the Constitution both in spirit and in letter,” President Granger said.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the editor of this newspaper, Lewis said the appointment by President Granger of a Tribunal, consistent with Article 225 of the Guyana Constitution, to inquire into the conduct of Duncan, who holds constitutional offices, is noted.
“This is a step in the right direction given that Guyana is a nation of laws and the respect, in this instance, to comply with the Constitution in dealing with this matter augurs well for all. The process must therefore be allowed to proceed unhindered by anyone”, Lewis noted.
Lewis said the Leader of the Opposition has pronounced on the appointment of the tribunal by emphatically accusing the President of witch-hunting. “Appointment of the tribunal is satisfying the constitutional requirement to deal with the Duncan matter, and the conclusion of the inquiry is what the President is expected to act upon,” Lewis noted.
He said that if the President had done nothing, it would have been tantamount to flying in the face of public outcries and abrogation of his responsibility to ensure those who operate on behalf of the State conduct themselves within the confines of the laws and acceptable behavioural standards.
Lewis cited Article 225 (2), noting that it expressly states: “The officer may be removed from office only for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause whatsoever) or for misbehaviour.” Lewis said: “I find Jagdeo’s (unwillingness) to respect the Constitution characteristic of his nature. During his presidency, acceptable universal principles, laws, rules, conventions and charters meant nothing to him if they could not serve his self-interest. The country was managed without regard for (universally) acceptable practices, people’s rights were transgressed, and witch-hunting (was) the order of the day.”
Lewis charged that Duncan’s presence on the Public Service Commission (PSC) was considered a “deliberate act by the Jagdeo Government to keep the workers’ recognised trade union, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), from sitting on the commission”.
He said the union that Duncan serves, the Guyana Labour Union, does not represent public servants appointed by the PSC, a fact which the Jagdeo Administration was aware of.
“My own experience has shown that, under Duncan’s chairmanship of the PSC, the rights of many public servants were transgressed. Many of these persons are still languishing out there, without being given a hearing.”
Lewis said allegations have been made against Duncan, and he holds constitutional offices. “The activation of Article 225 by the President allows for a fair hearing and the right to be heard,” he said, noting that he is not surprised that Jagdeo sees such a move as sinister.
Mr. Carvil Duncan, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and General Secretary of the Guyana Labour Union, was charged jointly with Aeshwar Deonarine, former Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) of the Guyana Power and Light Incorporated (GPL), over the unapproved transfer from the PetroCaribe Fund of approximately $29M to their personal bank accounts.
Duncan was initially placed on $1M bail by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan.
Police allege that Duncan stole $984,900 from GPL on March 31, 2015 at Georgetown, after conspiring with Deonarine to commit the act of simple larceny.
Duncan is also alleged to have conspired with Deonarine to commit a felony – that is to say: between May 7 and 8 at Georgetown, he conspired to steal Gy$27,757,500, property of GPL.
He has denied the charges.