New CJ to deal with challenges to cap on presidential benefits

Outgoing acting Chief Justice Ian Chang has adjourned the challenges brought by former presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar to the law enacted to cap their benefits as former heads of state.

When the matter was called yesterday for the first hearing before Justice Chang, attorney Prithima Kissoon, from the Attorney General’s Chambers, indicated that Attorney General Basil Williams was desirous of raising a point of the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Justice Chang, however, explained to Kissoon that since he will soon be leaving the bench, it would not be wise for him to begin hearing the case, since he would be unable to so do to completion. The judge therefore directed that the matter be properly dealt with by the new Chief Justice.

On December 15th, Justice Chang will proceed on pre-retirement leave. Justice of Appeal Yonette Cummings-Edwards has been nominated to perform the duties of Chief Justice of Guyana.

Against this background, Justice Chang set January 29th, 2016 for the next hearing of the matter.

He also granted Kissoon’s application for a further 21 days leave for the AG’s Chambers, who are the respondents in the matter, to file an affidavit in answer.

Williams was present at yesterday’s hearing.

Through attorney Murseline Bacchus, Jagdeo and Ramotar are each asking the court to declare that the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2015, passed to cap benefits to former presidents, does not retroactively affect their entitlements.

They are also seeking declarations that the 2009 Act, which was repealed the new legislation, vested property rights in them that became absolute when they demitted office and that they are entitled to receive their entitled benefits within a reasonable time after leaving office. They also seek an order compelling the Finance Minister and/or the Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority and/or their agents to immediately provide the financial benefits conferred by the old law.

The former presidents have filed separate legal challenges.

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