City Hall has no legal right to impose shipping container tax; several cases withdrawn

Last Updated on Friday, 15 July 2016, 13:50 by Denis Chabrol

Well-known Attorney-at-Law, Sase Gunraj said Friday that Georgetown’s Mayor and Councillors do not have any legal right to impose a container tax and can only do so if the archaic colonial law is amended by Parliament.

“They do not have the authority to impose that tax…”If they want to impose such a tax they have to go to Parliament,” he told Demerara Waves Online News shortly after  City Magistrate, Annette Singh invited a Prosecutor to withdraw the charges.

Crown Mining was among several persons and businesses that were charged with illegally having shipping containers on the city’s streets. In the case of Crown Mining, that company was given notice and ordered to appear in court on Friday.

Gunraj has already submitted a legal opinion to the Private Sector Commission (PSC), stating that the Mayor and City Council has no legal basis for charging the container tax of GYD$25,000. Gunraj notes that,  even if the section of the municipal law that  City Hall is quoting is applied, the fine will be GYD$5,000. “It is my respectful opinion that this attempt by the Mayor and City Council of the City of Georgetown is arbitrary and unlawful and the section upon which they are relying cannot form the basis for a successful prosecution in a Court of law,” he said in a letter to PSC Chairman, Eddie Boyer.

That section of the Municipal and District Council’s Act refers to goods and livestock taken from a vessel alongside any market stelling and landed at any other stelling or place within the city shall pay market fees if they have not been already paid at the entry of the vessel.  That law makes no reference to a container tax and does not provide for imports that enters Guyana at privately-operated wharves.

In relation to a number of cases Gunraj said the Magistrate observed that the charge was bad in law, and that the wrong parties were taken to court. “It is my respectful opinion that it has to do with the merits of the charges…The section which they are attempting to impose that tax does not allow for such a tax to be imposed.”