Sacked High Commissioner to Canada wins $24M over wrongful dismissal

Harry Narine Nawbatt

Former Guyana High Commissioner to Canada Harry Narine Nawbatt yesterday won a more than $24 million judgment against the APNU+AFC government for wrongful dismissal.

The judgment was handed down by High Court judge Diana Insanally at the conclusion of a lengthy trial, which found that his services had been unlawfully terminated and for which he was awarded $24,295,104 together with salaries, emoluments and other benefits owing under his contract.

Additionally, Nawbatt was awarded half a million dollars for the government breaching his contract.

These sums will attract interest at a rate of 6% per annum from the date of filing which dates back to April of 2016 to yesterday’s date when the judgment was delivered and thereafter at the rate of 4% per annum until fully paid.

The former High Commissioner was also granted $50,000 in court costs.

He was represented by attorney Anil Nandlall, who appeared in association with Manoj Narayan and Rajendra Jaigobin.

Nawbatt, who served under the former PPP administration and was given marching orders a month after the current government took office in 2015, had been suing for over $49 million.

He was seeking “special” damages in the sum of $24,295,104 and damages in excess of $25M for breach of contract.

Nawbatt officially took up the post on February 10th, 2015 and his services were terminated with effect from August 31st, 2015.  He was written to on June 8th, 2015 by then acting Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Audrey Jardine-Waddell, who notified him that his appointment as High Commissioner would end on August 31st, 2015 and that he would be reposted to Guyana.

In his statement of claim, he said that in a contract of employment made on February 9th, 2015, between the Government of Guyana and himself, he was engaged to perform the duties and functions of High Commissioner to Canada effective from the 10th day of February, 2015, to the 9th day of February, 2016 inclusive, at a monthly salary of $773,801, subject to certain terms and conditions set out in a schedule attached to the agreement.

Nawbatt stated that he was to be paid a monthly station allowance of US$4,500 per month and the government was to provide him with free furnished accommodation, the free use of a chauffeur driven car and business class return passages by air between Guyana (or the place of his residence) and the city of his post for himself, his spouse and their children under the age of 25 years.

He was also entitled to a gratuity equal to 22½% of the basic salary payable in six-monthly periods or on termination of his Contract of Employment.

Based on his computation, Nawbatt, who had pegged his special damages at $24,295,104, said he was owed $4.3 million for salary up to February 9th, 2016; gratuity of $5.7 million, $4 million for 158 days leave; $4.8 million in station allowance; $4.6 million in station allowance for leave for approximately five months and $2 million in business class return air passages, among other things.

Nawbatt raised eyebrows when he accompanied PPP/C officials on the campaign trail during the May, 2015 regional and general elections.

Days before the elections, Nawbatt accompanied then Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett as they campaigned in indigenous communities in Region Nine. Nawbatt’s role as a former Executive Director of the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP), which had undertaken a number of development projects in those communities, was emphasised as he sought to convince attendees at the meetings that they should vote for the PPP/C.

Observers had said it was unusual that a lead envoy at an overseas mission would be deployed for partisan campaigning at home, more so as he was also formerly the head of the social relief programme, which entailed neutrality.

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