Last Updated on Thursday, 4 August 2016, 14:23 by Denis Chabrol
The High Court will first have to issue orders before University of Guyana student loan borrowers can be blocked from leaving the country, according to legal sources.
The sources explained that as it relates to the student loan borrowers, the Attorney General , representing the Guyana government, would first have to sue the indebted graduates and students for failure to pay the agreed debt before seeking an order to prohibit them from leaving Guyana.
Section 64 of the High Court Act states that where the plaintiff in any action in the Court proves at any time before final judgement by evidence on oath to the satisfaction of the Court or a judge that he has good cause of action against the defendant to an amount exceeding five hundfred dollarsm and that there is probable cause for believing that the defendant is about to quit Guyana unless apprehended, and that the absence if the defendant from Guyana will materially prejudice the plaintiff in the prosecution of his action,or, where the action is for a liquidated sum due and payable under a contract evidenced in writing, that the defendant dies not or will not have assets in Guyana of sufficient value to satisfy any judgment for the sum claimed or that the absence of the defendant will otherwise prejudice the recovery of the sum, the Court or judge may, in the manner prescribed by the rules of the court, order the defendant not to leave Guyana pending the determination of the action unless and until he has sooner given security not exceeding the amount claimed in the action as prescribed by the rules of court that he will not go out of Guyana without the leave of the court.
The explanation came amid uncertainty about whether or not the Guyana government was taking steps to provide a list of student loan debtors to the Immigration Department and set up desks at all ports to intercept them before they leave the country. Finance Minister, Winston Jordan’s statement to that effect was Wednesday debunked by Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Winston Felix and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge during their appearance before a bipartisan parliamentary committee on foreign relations.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Thursday hinted that government could take legal action as part of a process to prevent student loan debtors from leaving Guyana.
“One the face of it, we cannot just put a list there at the airport and stop anybody from travelling. There is a legal process involved and there are constitutional rights which you have to basically cater for,” Harmon said.
Harmon told a news conference that government had no plan to curtail the legal right to freedom of movement. “There is no intention at all in what has been proposed to affect the constitutional right of any person to free travel in and out of Guyana. There is no sort of blacklisting in that way,” he said.
He explained that government’s only aim is to ensure students who borrowed monies from the Ministry of Finance to pay University of Guyana tuition fees repay their debts to the revolving fund for future beneficiaries. Rather than using a “sledgehammer approach,” he said government has embarked on a “soft-sell” to encourage people to honour their obligations.
Since the inception of the Student Loan Agency in 1994, at least GYD$9.5 billion made available to the revolving agency to facilitate the payment of tuition fees. Up to May, 2016 figures show that 26,239 loans have been issued but repayment up the same period amounted to GYD$1.75 billion, with installments due amounting to GYD$5.7 billion.
The Finance Minister has announced interest reduction packages for those who make arrangements to repay their loans by August and September, 2016. In keeping with a wide-ranging audit report into the operations of the Student Loan Agency, the “Jubilee offer” will be a 75 percent reduction in the accumulated arrears of interest if borrowers pay their indebtedness no later than August 31, 2016 or a 50 percent reduction in accumulated arrears of interest if borrowers bring their accounts up to date by September 30, 2016. If, however, a borrower defaults subsequently interest so waived will be restored to the borrower’s account.