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Bitter row in GMSA over CCJ’s US$6 M award to Surinamese company; lawyers also scold GMSA for “irresponsible” statement

Guyana’s legal fraternity on Saturday chided the Guyana Manufacturers Association (GMSA) for calling on government not to pay a US$6 million compensation awarded to a Surinamese beverage company, Rudisa, by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), even as that business organisation grapples with a serious rift over the unauthorised issuance of a statement on the matter one week ago.

Former GMSA President Clinton Williams told Demerara Waves Online News that none of the leading members of the executive was aware of the statement issued one week ago. Charging that the GMSA’s reputation has been tarnished by hijackers, Williams said he would be pushing for the association to retract the statement and sanction those who conspired to disseminate it.

“There should be some sanction or official release dissociating the association from that release because they did not meet and consider it and have consensus,” said Williams.

Demerara Waves was told that at the time the GMSA statement was issued, only the Second Vice President, Eon Caesar was in Guyana and he was unaware of the document. He is said to be totally upset about the entire affair.

For their part, the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) and the Guyana Association of Women’s Lawyers on Saturday scolded the GMSA for issuing a “careless” statement without informing itself.

“We therefore caution anyone against any suggestion that Guyana can consider itself free to “re-examine” decisions of the CCJ. That, we humbly suggest, could do serious harm to Guyana’s reputation for respect for the rule of law and as an investment destination.

In the circumstances we consider that it would be responsible of the GMSA to take the appropriate action on its statement,” said the organisations in a joint statement, adding that the CCJ decisions in the Rudisa case are “final and not subject to appeal.”

Former Minister of Commerce, Manzoor Nadir is among those who has been leading the charge for Guyana not to pay Rudisa , saying that the company had admitted before the CCJ to passing on the Environmental Tax on beverage to consumers.  However, Guyana could provide no evidence to support that claim. Nadir earlier this week, in a letter to the privately-owned Stabroek News, complimented the GMSA in its stand and calculated that the company instead owes Guyana more than US$15 million.

The GBA and GAWL said they were convinced that “at the lowest, it was careless with the facts and disrespectful of the obligation on Guyana to comply with a judgment of the country’s and the region’s highest court in relation to the CSME (Caricom Single Market and Economy).”

The associations representing the legal fraternity  noted that the CCJ found that the tax constituted a violation of the Revised Treaty of Chagauramas and from information available to the Court, Guyana knew as long as fourteen years ago, at the 11th. Meeting of COTED held on May 22 – 23 2001, that it was in breach of the Treaty.  “We have read the judgment handed down by the Court and are satisfied that the GMSA has misinformed itself of all the evidence, including the re-examination of key witnesses. Its statement also suggests that the authors of the statement may not have read the judgment of the Court.

The GMSA has said that after its Board of Directors and a number of members viewed the entire recording of the Court proceedings it wanted Guyanese authorities to punish Rudisa. “As the official business representative of private sector Manufacturers in Guyana, the GMSA is appealing to the Administration to re-examine the ruling by the CCJ and most of all, to apply the appropriate penalties ascribed by the Laws of Guyana for RUDISA’s admitted under-invoicing of exports to this country.  In addition, Government must take into account the gross unfairness to Guyanese who would be forced to pay twice since they already pay RUDISA’S Environmental tax with every purchase of a Thrill drink,” the association said last week.