Another egregious act of authoritarianism- Nandlall

The Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) is a statutory body corporate. By law, it is managed by a Board of Directors and possesses its own persona. It can attract liabilities, own assets and hire its own employees. It is not a department of the Government but an agency of the state.
Indeed, historically, like the Inland Revenue Department (and many such entities), it was once a Government department. 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. It is the same philosophy which informed the transformation of the Inland Revenue Department into the now Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).

In Tamlin v. Hannaford [1950] 1KB 18, Lord Denning, in describing an entity similar to the GPOC in England, stated thus: “In the eye of the law, the corporation is its own master and is answerable as fully as any other person or corporation. It is not the Crown and has none of the immunities or privileges of the Crown. Its servants are not civil servants, and its property is not Crown property. It is as much bound by the Acts of Parliament as any other subject of the King. It is, of course, a public authority and its purposes, no doubt, are public purposes, but it is not a government department nor do its powers fall within the province of government.”

Some years ago, the Trinidad and Tobago Post Office underwent a similar metamorphosis with the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Post Office Corporation. Prior to that, the postal services in that country were a department of Government and its employees were public servants. The status of the Trinidad and Tobago Post Office Corporation and that of its employees came to the fore in the case of Perch v. Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago [2003] 62WIR 461(PC), Lord Bingham, who delivered the opinion of the Judicial Committee, firmly rejected the notion that the new corporation remained a service operated by the government. His Lordship said: “Those transferring were not regarded as remaining in the public service: hence the provision that the terms and conditions on transfer should be no less favourable than those enjoyed in the public service”.

After referring to the passage from Tamlin v. Hannaford (supra) cited earlier, he concluded that, “The Board is of the clear opinion that employees of the new corporation are not holders of any public office and are not employed in the service of the Government in a civil capacity within the meaning of section 3(1) of the Constitution.”

In Griffith v. Attorney General, [2006] CCJ 1 (AJ), the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) carried out a similar examination in respect of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and concluded thus: “This court is firmly of the view that the Revenue Authority is a new corporate entity distinct from the government although it is a public corporation. The employees of the Revenue Authority are not holders of any public office nor are they employed in the service of the government of Guyana in a civil capacity; see also Chue and Hyman v Attorney General of Guyana (unreported, H.C.A. No. 6 of 1998) at pages 27 and 43 per Carl Singh J.”.

It must now be inexorably clear that the GPOC is not a Government department. It is not part of the Government. Therefore, its policies and activities are not to be dictated by or interfered with, by the Government. Likewise, its employees are not employees of the Government. They are not public servants. Therefore, they are not subject to Government’s supervision or control. It must also be unequivocally 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, clear executive lawlessness and abuse of power.

It is against this background, that the matter involving the issuance of the stamps in celebration of the centenary birth anniversary of Dr. Cheddi Jagan must be examined. The Cheddi Jagan Research Center Inc. (CJRCI) entered into a contract with the GPOC for the production and issuance of these stamps. The discussions lasted several months before it was consummated by 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 absolutely unnecessary, I am informed that the transaction received the positive imprimatur of the subject Minister. Yet, on the day in question, the GPOC failed to deliver the stamps. They directed CJRCI to make contact with the Ministry of the Presidency. Based upon the legal authorities to which I have referred, the Ministry of the Presidency has absolutely no authority in this matter.

The Ministry of the Presidency, in a statement, essentially admitted that they have prohibited GPOC from issuing the stamps. Clearly, the Ministry of the Presidency has acted ultra vires and has unlawfully usurped the functional responsibility of an independent statutory body corporate. It has also exposed the GPOC to civil liabilities for breach of its contract with CJRCI.

The Ministry of the Presidency is free to and indeed, may consider itself duty-bound to commemorate the life and work of every former President. However, it has no authority to monopolize such activities. Therefore, other organisations are free to do likewise.

The Ministry of the Presidency issued a statement. It is but merely a plea in mitigation. The phrase “national symbols” was invoked to describe the stamps. This is simply an adjectival verbiage employed to sanctify another egregious act of authoritarianism.

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