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High Court issues order against Chief-of Staff for sending bonus-seeking officers on leave

Chief Justice Ian Chang has granted a conditional order quashing the decision by Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Commodore Gary Best to send four military officers on leave.

The GDF on March 13 sent Major Leslie Ramlall, Captain Rono Joseph, Captain Lancelot Fraser and Lieutenant (Coast Guard) Andre Cush on leave  less than one week after they filed a lawsuit against Best to show cause why they were not paid a one-month bonus that was announced by Commander-in-Chief, President Donald Ramotar last year-end.

Lawyers for the officers have argued that that essentially none of the reasons advanced by Best are applicable and their remaining on the job would not amount to a conflict of interest.

That matter comes up again on April 18. It is now up to the Chief-of-Staff to show cause why the order must not be made absolute.

Lawyers representing the quartet are Senior Counsels Rex Mc Kay and Fitz Peters and Attorney, Abiola Wong-Inniss.

Additionally, they never asked to be relinquished from duties and they should have been consulted before any such decision was taken.

Secretary to Defence Board, Dr. Roger Luncheon has since stated that the annual one-month bonus is discretionary and not across-the-board.

The GDF has said that “given the serious nature of the matters, its implications, (and) the avoidance of any conflict of interest which may arise.”

The army added that the relief of the officers’ appointments is without prejudice to leave entitlements and pecuniary benefits, until the determination of their matters. The decision, according to Defence Force, also makes way for the officers to pursue their legal matters. Relieving them of their appointments does not mean that they have been fired or demoted but instead their duties and responsibilities have been withdrawn from them and they are now at home.’

The officers want the High Court to quash the Chief-of Staff’s decision to withhold the payment and issue a mandatory order compelling him to pay them forthwith.

According to the officers, Best had no discussion or jurisdiction to place any restriction on the payment of the money. They said the Commander-in-Chief, in granting the one-month pay-out, had not imposed any restrictions. Therefore, the officers believe that the Chief-of-Staff’s action was beyond his legal power and authority, arbitrary, null, void and unconstitutional.