Ramson’s opinion as AG was solicited on a private lottery not a government lottery

Dear Editor,
Unusually for Guyana, Mr Charles Ramson SC uses the honorific ‘Justice’ to subscribe his letter ‘Solicited opinion that the government share of the Lotto funds does not have to be placed in the Consolidated Fund has now been given the blessing of a High Court judge’ (SN, January 15).
Despite having occupied such an exalted position, Mr Ramson still seems unable to accept certain basic facts as well as the relevant constitutional and statutory provisions in the entire Lotto funds issue, including the case to which he refers. Let me try to clarify some salient points for him.

In 1996, some time around which Mr Ramson had his first stint as Attorney General, the Government of Guyana and Canadian Bank Note Ltd signed an agreement under which the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, the Guyana Lottery Company Inc, was granted permission to operate a lottery in Guyana. Under the terms of the agreement, the company pays to the Government of Guyana a licence fee of 24% of gross revenues, decreased by the amounts of any additional fees and taxes.

The question which the court was asked by Mr Desmond Trotman to address in the Lotto case is whether the 24% is subject to Article 216 of the Constitution of Guyana. That article requires that:

“All revenues or other moneys raised or received by Guyana (not being revenues or other moneys that are payable, by or under an Act of Parliament, into some other fund established for any specific purpose or that may, by or under such an Act, be retained by the authority that received them for the purpose of defraying the expenses of that authority) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Fund.”

In what he keeps repeating is a “solicited opinion” given by him on May 19, 2010, Mr Ramson as Attorney General advised that the funds received from the Guyana Lottery Company were not required to be deposited into the Consolidated Fund.

It is more than surprising that Mr Ramson who holds such a high opinion of himself and which he thinks is shared by others would make the elementary mistake of not properly and adequately checking the Government  Lotteries Act Cap. 80:07. This Act, which permits and regulates Government lotteries provides the following unambiguous definition of “Government lottery”:
“Government lottery” means a lottery organised and conducted by the Government Lotteries Control Committee under the provisions of section 3 of this Act“ (emphasis added).

But instead of staying faithfully with that definition, Mr Ramson refers in his opinion to the Auditor General the following definition in the agreement:

“A lottery organized and conducted under the provisions of Chapter 80:07 Laws of Guyana.”
No clumsy, procrustean or perverse attempts to circumvent the Guyana Lotteries Act could succeed since only a lottery “organised and conducted by the Government Lotteries Control Committee” comes within the definition of the Act. The lottery on which Mr Ramson’s opinion was solicited is one organised and managed by the Guyana Lottery Company Limited, a private company. It could not therefore be a government lottery, even by Mr Ramson’s strained definition.

But this was not Mr Ramson’s only error. In referring to a Development Fund of Guyana to buttress his flawed opinion, he does the opposite and actually weakens his case. Had he done basic research he would have realised that there is no such fund in Guyana, nor has any been in existence since 1966 when an earlier Development Fund set up for the colony of British Guiana was abolished.

With a modicum of diligence, Mr Ramson would have discovered that there is no Development Fund of Guyana whether under the Constitution, the Financial Administration and Audit Act Cap. 73:04 or the successor provisions in the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act No 20 of 2003. The latter makes it pellucid and mandatory that all public moneys raised or received by the government must be credited fully and promptly to the Consolidated Fund. The only exceptions, none of which applies to the 24% received from a private company, are:
(a) moneys credited to an extra-budgetary fund set up under enabling legislation establishing such a fund;

(b) moneys credited to a deposit fund established by the Minister into which public moneys are paid pending repayment or payment for the purpose for which the moneys were deposited; and (c) any fund established for any specific purpose by or under an Act to be retained by the authority receiving the money to be used for the purpose of defraying the expenses of that authority.

But Mr Ramson’s most egregious error was his failure to recognise that the Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana and its provisions, including Article 216, cannot be swept aside by the terms of any agreement however clearly or ineptly drafted.

Unfortunately for Mr Ramson, he did not stay silent even with the embarrassment of such elementary errors. Without the benefit of a written decision of the judge or his presence in the court when Justice Diane Insanally gave her ruling on a preliminary point, Mr Ramson claims that his opinion “has been given the blessing of a High Court judge.”

If Mr Ramson would exit the fantasy land in which he “sedulously sought refuge” he would realise that the learned judge did no such thing: she simply ruled on a procedural point only; and he would also learn that that ruling has been challenged. Incidentally one of the grounds of appeal is the judge’s reliance on what is considered a flawed point handed down by Mr Ramson himself while he sat on the Court of Appeal.

Unhelpfully for his legacy that was the closing case Mr Ramson included in his book In Pursuit of Justice – A Collectanea which he thinks secured his expertise as a legal mind.
Yours faithfully,
Christopher Ram

Latest in Letters

default placeholder

What is the Education Service coming to?

Dear Editor,   In SN of June 22 and KN of June 24, I note two versions of a letter by Mr Leon Suseran, “Graduate Senior Assistant Master, Vrymans Erven High School”. 

default placeholder

There should be a fund for the family in the tree accident

Dear Editor, The heart-wrenching story of the horrible tree-felling accident, where the little dying child calls for “Mama” must have stirred others in some way.

default placeholder

The city council needs to install parking meters to raise money

Dear Editor, We continue to be amazed by the many different stories which are being peddled in certain sections of the media and other places about the installation and operation of parking meters in the city.

default placeholder

It is time the Mayor, Town Clerk, Finance Committee Chairman stop the authoritarianism

Dear Editor, The Youth For Local Government (YFLG) is appalled by the actions and statements coming from the Georgetown municipality, mainly the utterances of the Mayor, Councillor Oscar Clarke and the Town Clerk on the parking meter fiasco.

default placeholder

Statistics do not support the view that abolition of the death penalty does not affect the murder rate

Dear Editor, In societies all over the world when the murder rate is deemed uncomfortably high citizens engage in fierce discourse on the merits and demerits of the death penalty; Guyana has been no different.

default placeholder

Jagan was prepared to offer vice-presidencies to Thomas and Tennassee

Dear Editor,   I noticed that there is debate about the offer of a ministerial position to distinguished Professor Dr Clive Thomas by Dr Jagan.

default placeholder

Is the talk of social cohesion just rhetoric?

Dear Editor, I have a serious question for Guyanese, especially the current Government of Guyana (the APNU+AFC). What exactly is social cohesion and what measurable criteria need to be met for this to be achieved?

default placeholder

The EU will not be the same without Britain

Dear Editor, The British people have voted to exit the European Union after 43 years of membership. This is indeed a historic development which can have far reaching consequences not only for the people of Britain, but for the whole of Europe.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: