President David Granger has justified the Ministry of the Presidency’s intervention in the post office’s planned issuance of stamps to commemorate the centennial birth anniversary of late president Dr. Cheddi Jagan, saying that it acted to ensure that he is honoured properly.
“If there was any fault at all, it was the desire of the persons that did the writing not to treat Dr. Jagan in a way that he deserves to be treated. It is a national honour. It is not a physical thing, not a piece of paper. Dr Jagan is an outstanding Guyanese and we will honour Dr Jagan,” Granger told reporters on Wednes-day at State House, where he received letters of credence from Russia’s new Ambassador to Guyana.
He said that his government supports the honouring of all of its former presidents and was concerned that the request for the stamps was not put in the context of honouring president Jagan but was treated as a postal matter.
“It is not a postal function, it is not a matter of delivering letters from Leonora to Linden or to Lethem…It’s a function of honouring a distinguished Guyanese, and we wanted to put that in the correct context and we wanted to ensure that other distinguished Guyanese are also honoured,” he said.
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has argued that the Ministry of the Presidency’s intervention was unlawful.
The Cheddi Jagan Re-search Centre Inc. (CJRCI) had signed a contract with the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) to produce the stamps for last Thursday’s centennial birth anniversary of Jagan.
However, the stamps were not produced and on Friday the Ministry of the Presidency reported President Granger as saying that Cabinet is of the view that there should be equity in the printing of such commemorative stamps, which are national symbols. He also reportedly said that national symbols must not be used for “private, partisan or political messages,” but for a national purpose.
Nandlall argued that the GPOC is a statutory body corporate managed by a Board of Directors and is not a department of the government but an agency of the state.
Noting that it was once a government department, he said that its character, structure and personality were transformed into the new status that it now enjoys in order to imbue it with functional autonomy and to permit it to function independently of the government.
Nandlall said various cases establish that the GPOC’s policies and activities are not to be interfered with by the government. He said it is also clear that any attempt by the government, including the president, to interfere with the day-to-day activities and operations of the GPOC and its staff would be unlawful and an abuse of power.
It is against this background that he argued that the issuance of the stamps must be examined. He said the CJRCI entered into a contract with the GPOC for the production and issuance of the stamps. The discussions lasted several months before it was solemnised by the CJRCI paying to the GPOC a 50% deposit upon request of the requisite monetary charges for the production and issuance of the agreed stamps. Although it was unnecessary, Nandlall said that he was informed that the transaction received the imprimatur of the subject Minister, Cathy Hughes, Minister of Public Tele-communications.
But the president said that the manner in which the application was made was not in keeping with the constitution of the country as it pertains to national honours.
“The persons who made the application wrote to the wrong persons. [In] one case, the letter was sent to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure; one sent to Public Communications and another to the Prime Minister… As far as I am concerned, these are national honours and there is a constitution which deals with the national honour system,” Granger said.
He pointed out that while there was a delay, the stamps have been completed and there has been approval for their issuance. “The delay was caused by setting the context and ensuring that other deserving Guyanese would not be subject to arbitrary or ad-hoc recommendations. Nobody doubts Dr Jagan’s contributions to the development of Guyana …the stamps have been approved. The stamps have been printed,” he added.
Critics have also pointed out that numerous other stamps have been printed over the years without the argument of national symbols being invoked.