– Justice Ramson resumes role
FOLLOWING a bizarre sequence of events under the former A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government, Justice Charles Ramson Snr has been rehired as Guyana’s Commissioner of Information with a $40 million allocation earmarked for his office in 2022.
Responding to questions from the political opposition on Monday in the Committee of Supply of the National Assembly, Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira confirmed that the former Appeals Court judge resumed the position late last year.
Minister Teixeira, responding to questions from APNU+AFC parliamentarian, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, told the committee that Justice Ramson was “unceremoniously declared terminated in the House in the November 2018 budget reading.”
She said after his removal from the office in 2018, there was an acting Commissioner of Information receiving the full salary and benefits of the post, which amount to some $1.5 million per month.
“That person concluded their engagement with the present government in November 2020,” the minister told the committee.
The mandate of the Office of the Commissioner of Information is set out in Guyana’s Access to Information Act, and the Commissioner is appointed by the President.
Minister Teixeira said Commissioner Ramson has already met with President Dr Irfaan Ali to outline his work programme and expectations for various agencies for 2022.
In 2016, two years before his dismissal, Commissioner Ramson told this newspaper that following the change of administration in 2015, he met with the then David Granger-led administration and informed them of the protocol surrounding his office.
The Access to Information Act provides for a Minister responsible for Information to liaise with the Office of the Commissioner of Information.
Since former President Granger held responsibility for the portfolio of Information, Justice Ramson said he had engaged first in letters with former Minister Joseph Harmon, who was also the Head of the Presidential Secretariat.
He was then made to engage former Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who assumed the information portfolio, and then former Minister Harmon again.
At the then Ministry of the Presidency, the former justice bemoaned a “garrisoned environment” that had developed in the presidential compound.
Eventually, Justice Ramson’s office space was gradually encroached on, which led to him entering an agreement with then Minister Harmon to work from his East Street residence, and that necessary equipment would be transferred to the premises at the expense of the ministry.
Justice Ramson continued in the space without staff, refusing the rent which was offered to him for the use of his personal home as an office space as it did not satisfy the requirement for “neutral” space to properly carry out his functions.