Opposition MPs appeal dismissal of case seeking to halt disbursement of funds to constitutional agencies

Less than a week after Justice Nareshwar Harnanan dismissed a Notice of Application filed by APNU/AFC Members of Parliament (MPs) Ganesh Mahipaul and Coretta McDonald, hereinafter referred to as the applicants,  in which they sought a Conservatory Order to restrain Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, from disbursing funds to several constitutional agencies, an appeal has been lodged with the Full Court.

The effect of the High Court judge’s ruling is that Minister Singh is legally free to disburse funds to these agencies in keeping with estimates in the Appropriation Act 2021. In dismissing the application, Justice Haranan agreed that the issues raised by the applicants introduced constitutional matters of importance. The judge however noted that except for two Orders, all the other reliefs were overtaken by events and were therefore spent.

Among other things, the High Court Judge concluded that the applicants failed to adduce evidence or legal arguments why it is just and convenient that the two Orders be granted in light of their claim that a failure to grant the conservatory order restraining the minister from disbursing the funds to the constitutional agencies would prejudice the public and the public’s interest.

Consequently, Justice Harnanan refused to grant the conservatory orders sought, and awarded costs in favour of Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, a named respondent in the application,  in the sum of $200,000 to be paid by the applicants on or before the hearing of the substantive Fixed Date Application on March 15,  2021.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, Mahipaul and Mc Donald have filed an appeal to the Full Court in which they are asking that the decision of the trial judge be set aside and/or reversed.

The applicants through Roysdale Forde, SC, are contending that Justice Harnanan erred in law when he failed to consider the constitutional values of the rule of law, the maintenance and vindication of the rule of law, separation of powers, independence, and financial autonomy of the constitutional agencies.

Forde is also contending that the trial judge erred in law when he ruled that the applicants failed to demonstrate by evidence that the grant of the Conservatory Orders was in the public interest.

Moreover, the Senior Counsel is arguing that Justice Harnanan erred in law when he exercised his discretion to award costs against the applicants as he failed to consider that the proceedings were public interest and constitutional litigation. The applicants are requesting that the Full Court treat the appeal with urgency.

The constitutional agencies include the Women and General Equality Commission, the Guyana Elections Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Public Service and Teaching Service Commissions, the Public Service Appellate Tribunal, the Public Procurement Commissionthe Ethnic Relations Commissionthe Indigenous Peoples Commission, Parliament Office, the Rights of the Child Commission, the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Supreme Court of Judicature, and the Office of the Auditor-General.

Apart from Mahipaul and McDonald, the other applicants in this matter are Allan Munroe, Chairman of the Teaching Service Commission; Clinton Conway, Member of the Police Service Commission; Michael Somersall, Chairman of the Public Service Commission; Dawn Gardner, First Vice President of the Guyana Public Service Union and the Police Service Commission.