GUYANA | Chief Co-op Officer appeals Chief Justice’s ruling on Benn’s status in Credit Union

GUYANA | Chief Co-op Officer appeals Chief Justice’s ruling on Benn’s status in Credit Union

MONTEGO BAY, August 28, 2022 - When Bharrat Jagdeo was Leader of the Opposition and leader of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), he repeatedly threatened that when his party got back into government, a number of persons would be jailed.

Among the persons Jagdeo repeatedly named, was the then Commissioner of Lands and Survey in the APNU+AFC government, Trevor Benn. The PPP/C regime had followed through on their threat by announcing that they would be reviewing all transactions regarding the sale of State lands under the APNU+AFC administration from December 21, 2018.

The APNU+AFC administration had fallen to a no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018 and therefore, according to the PPP/C, should not have been involved in any such governance transactions. In fact, the PPP/C government is maintaining that the Coalition APNU+AFC administration should have been in caretaker mode, preparing for snap elections.

Having won the controversial 2020 elections, one of the first persons the new government hauled into court on misconduct charges was….you got it, Trevor Benn! 

Benn was removed from the post with effect from February 4, 2021 by the Ali/Jagdeo regime as promised. However, the court is yet to rule on the allegations levelled against him by the Ali/Jagdeo regime.

Chief Cooperative Development Officer (CCDO), Ms. Debbie PersaudChief Cooperative Development Officer (CCDO), Ms. Debbie PersaudIn May 2021, less than a month after Benn was elected Chair of the Committee of Management of the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union Limited (GPSCCU) the Chief Cooperative Development Officer (CCDO), Ms. Debbie Persaud, wrote to him asking that he show cause why she should not direct the Management Committee to remove him as Chair. 

Benn, an Afro-Guyanese,  was removed as Chair in April 2022 at a Management Committee meeting without knowledge or opportunity given to him for a hearing to defend himself.  He became aware of his removal after the fact.

Benn’s removal has given rise to growing concerns among members of the credit unions, trade unionists and others in society, that the PPP/C government is moving in to take control of the workers’ credit unions which is dominated by the small man, primarily African Guyanese. 

Persons see this as the government wanting to take away members’ independence to manage their savings and other assets without political interference.

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire granted the order quashing the decision of the CCDO to direct the Credit Union to dismiss Mr. Trevor Benn as its Chairman.  Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire granted the order quashing the decision of the CCDO to direct the Credit Union to dismiss Mr. Trevor Benn as its Chairman. The matter was taken to the Supreme court and on July 19 acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire granted the order of certiorari, quashing the decision of the CCDO to direct the Credit Union to dismiss Mr. Trevor Benn as its Chairman.  

The Chief Justice also granted an order of prohibition, prohibiting the CCDO from proceeding to require the Credit Union to dismiss Mr. Benn as its Chairman.

The court reasoned that the CCDO came to her decision in breach of the rule of natural justice and without conducting a full and proper investigation of the circumstances. The court also noted that reference to criminal charges Benn is currently facing tends to suggest that the CCDO concluded that the Chairman was a criminal and found the CCDO did not adhere to the principle of presumption of innocence.

Of  course, the Chief Cooperative Development Officer (CCDO), Ms. Debbie Persaud, has appealed acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George-Wiltshire July 19, Judgment regarding Mr. Trevor Benn, then Chairman of the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union Limited (GPSCCU). The Respondent in the Appeal is the GPSCCU not Mr. Benn.

The CCDO is being represented by the Attorney General’s Chambers and the GPSCCU by attorney-at-law Teni Housty.

in its Appeal filed last week the CCDO said the Chief Justice erred and is misconceived in law by misconstruing the intent of the Co-operatives Societies Act (as amended by Amendment No. 2 of  2015 to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, Chapter 10:11) and regulation relating to the statutory duty of the CCDO relating to the Officer of the Credit Union charged with a criminal offence.

The appellant is also contending the Chief Justice erred in law in arriving at the decision that Persaud’s undertaking in dismissing Benn was in breach of fundamental justice “when every opportunity of fairness was provided to the Officer of the Respondent,” among other disagreements with the Judgment.

Persaud is therefore asking the Appeal Court “to set aside, reversed and/or varied” the Judgment and the Respondent (GPSCCU) be ordered to pay costs to the Courts.



   

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