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AFC can’t practically stop Specialty Hospital- Ramjattan

File photo: Sand being stockpiled at the site of the Specialty Hospital.

The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Thursday said there was little it could do to stop government from constructing the US$18 million Specialty Hospital although the opposition had cut the budget for the project.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall has confirmed to Demerara Waves that government’s spending on the project would be legal, but he referred all other questions to Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh.

The Finance Minister does not usually respond to questions outside of news conferences and signing of agreements.

Except for soil tests and tons of white sand and the erection of wooden structure for workers, no construction has actually started.

AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan said the only option available to his party was to point out that the deal with the Indian firm Surendra Engineering was an alleged corrupt transaction because GUY$1.25 billion was cut by the 65-seat opposition-controlled House and the firm has never built a hospital.

“We have stopped it because we did not vote for it but we can’t go to where the place is and hold up the construction people and say ‘don’t build’ but we have to educate the public to say that this is a totally wrong thing on the part of the government,” he said

Ramjattan, a practicing lawyer, noted that currently there was a conflict between the High Court’s provisional ruling that the budget could not be cut and the House Speaker’s ruling that the court has little jurisdiction over the House.

The AFC leader said Chief Justice, Ian Chang could opt to overturn or confirm his provisional ruling after hearing final arguments.  Ramjattan said if the ruling is confirmed, his party would eventually take the case to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). “We believe that given an opportunity to take the case right up to the highest legal forum- that is the Caribbean Court of Justice- we believe that we would have justice there where it should be ruled that parliaments all across Commonwealth countries can cut budgets and can reduce allocations,” he said.

Describing the move by government to go ahead with construction of the specialty hospital as “both outrageous and dangerous,” he accused government of violating the will of the majority in the House. “This is provocative and may result in consequences that will be detrimental to the whole country,” he said. The AFC reiterated that the project must be halted and retendered.

Funded by a line of credit through India’s EXIM Bank, the Specialty Hospital is expected to provide sophisticated surgeries and other medical interventions at costs lower than those in North America and Europe.