Mr Basil Williams, Attorney General, has alleged that “it was only by chance that he recently found out about yet another debt that the PPP administration left Guyana to pay.”
Mr Williams was referring to the judgement granted by the Caribbean Court of Justice in a case filed against the State of Guyana by Rudisa Beverage Company of Suriname. It boggles the mind that the Attorney General made this “discovery” by chance when I repeatedly, and ad nauseam made this information public, both when the judgement was awarded, as well as numerable times thereafter. On almost every occasion that I spoke on this matter, I explained why, and on what basis, this judgment was granted.
The truth is Guyana has failed to amend its laws to bring them into conformity with the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, in terms of ensuring that certain goods of Caricom origin are not levied with tax and customs duties when imported into Guyana. During the hearing of the case, the Rudisa Company undertook before the CCJ, that were Guyana to remove from its laws, the offensive provisions, they would withdraw their case against Guyana. The CCJ adjourned the matter for this to be done.
As a result, the then Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh tabled the necessary amendments to the Customs Act in the National Assembly on two occasions. On both occasions the joint opposition, which held a majority in the National Assembly, voted against the amendments. Messrs Basil Williams, Khemraj Ramjattan and Carl Greenidge spoke emphatically against the amendments on each occasion. In both instances, I explained to the House that the case is pending at the CCJ, and if the amendments are not passed, judgement will be granted against Guyana. My appeals fell on deaf ears. The astonishment expressed by the Attorney General on this issue is bewildering.
The reality is that Guyana remains in violation of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and many more lawsuits can be filed. Therefore, rather than engage in political ramblings on this issue, it would be prudent if the AG could ensure that Guyana complies with its treaty obligations.
The second “debt” referred to by Mr Williams, is in relation to $57 million which he claims was awarded against the State in a matter brought by Trinidad Cement Limited. No such award was made. The only monetary order made in that matter relates to costs and it is nothing close to $57 million.