High Court orders Trevor Benn-led Public Service Coop Credit Union management team to take office; Van Sluytman vows to take legal action

Last Updated on Monday, 8 April 2024, 20:16 by Denis Chabrol

Attorneys-at-Law Roysdale Forde and Christopher Thompson with the newly-elected members of the Committee of Management of the Guyana Public Service Cooperative Credit Union.

The High Court on Monday ordered the recently-elected 12-member Management Committee of the Guyana Public Service Cooperative Credit Union (GPSCCU) to take up office and so replace the Karen Van Sluytman-Corbin-led previous committee.

“We are addressing that with our lawyers,” she told Demerara Waves Online News when asked if an injunction would be sought along with a new court case.

With the election having been held on March 2, 2024 and the results declared, Justice Navindra Singh added that “the election is presumed to be lawfully and properly conducted until a forum authorised to investigate complaints that it was not, finds that it was not.”

Already, newly-elected GPSCCU Management Committee Chairman, Trevor Benn said he and his team went to the Hadfield Street, Newburg, Georgetown office, held meetings and took other administrative steps. “We went in and already asked for the change over of the bank signatures… and we had meetings. We hit the ground running,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

However, she vowed to file a fresh case challenging the validity of the elections on the ground of a lack of quorum at the Special General Meeting (SGM). “If a quorum was established, then anything afterwards like passing of motions and then the elections would have been lega and valid,” she said.

As such, she said the March 2, 2024 SGM was illegal because there was no quorum of a quarter of the estimated 25,000 credit union members. Chairman of the SGM, Patrick Mentore, who was elected GPSCCU Vice Chairman, had said that several requests for the membership register were fruitless.

Justice Singh, in his decision on Monday, said raising objections about the process was not sufficient to block those elected from taking up office. “Any issue or objection that any member has with the manner in which the election was conducted, though permissible in the appropriate forum, cannot, simply by being voiced without a finding that the election was improperly or unlawfully conducted, be the basis upon which the persons elected at that election be prevented from taking up their elected positions,” the judge said.

Ms Karen Van Sluytman-Corbin voicing her concerns to Returning Officer Professor Leyland Lucas. (file picture)

She believed that the Ministry of Labour’s Chief Cooperatives Development Officer (CCDO), who regulates coop credit unions, should “challenge that decision because he was stripped of his statutory powers”. In fact, Justice Singh ordered the CCDO, his agents or servants are “hereby restrained from preventing the newly-elected Committee of Management…from taking up office.”

The CCDO had last month written to Mr Mentore instructing him and the 11 other persons from taking up office and performing duties unless he had provided a list of persons who attended the Special General Meeting virtually and physically, list of persons who voted in the election, and confirm that the credit union has 25,385 members. There were claims that there were 513 persons online; both physical and online attendance was 1,907 and approximately 1,900 persons voted.

Ms Van Sluytman and her eight other members of the then Committee of Management were also restrained from preventing those who were elected on March 2 from assuming duties. The others are Gillian Pollard, Ms. Onyekachukwu Eastman-Onwuzirike, Arthur Gibbs, Charles Ogle, Ruth Howard, Leslyn Noble, Jermain Hermanstyne, and Michelle Davis.

Those who earned the highest number of votes at the SGM held early last month are Mr Benn, Mr Mentore, Eslyn Harris, Rajdai Jagarnauth, Vanessa Kissoon, Mehalai McAlmont, Christopher Thompson,  Dr. John Anderson, Judah Louisy, Kirk Fraser, Candace Enmore and Beverly De John.

Mr Benn and his team were represented by Mr. Roysdale A. Forde. S.C., and Mr. Christopher Thompson; Ms Van Sluytman and her team Mr. Neil Boston, S.C., and Mr. Dhurjon, and the CCDO by lawyers Ms Williams and Ms. Thomas.