High Court judge in GTU case was “presumptuous” – Jagdeo

Last Updated on Friday, 26 April 2024, 8:13 by Writer

Justice Sandil Kissoon

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday said High Court Judge, Sandil Kissoon was “presumptuous” to say in his recent decision in favour of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) that President Irfaan Ali’s meeting with teachers did not amount to collective bargaining.

“In this case, he wasn’t doing anything illegal for the court to… but it’s presumptuousness to criticise the President, purely presumptuous,” Mr Jagdeo told a press conference.

While recalling that Dr Ali never said his meeting with the teachers at State House on October 2, 2024 was collective bargaining, Mr Jagdeo said no judge could dictate who a President should hold talks with. “I think it’s presumptuous of a judge to tell the President who he should meet and who he sh0uldn’t meet,” said Mr Jagdeo, a former President of Guyana.

This is the elected President of Guyana who is the head of the Executive branch of the government which is separate from the judiciary. According to Mr Jagdeo, the President’s ability to meet with anyone and for any reason are unfettered by anyone, including judges. The Vice President said the President is more accountable than a judge. “Judges, there is the separation (of powers) and they have authority, but the President is more accountable than judges. Judges don’t have to face the people of this country. Every five years, you have to go back to the people of this country for validation or a renewal of your mandate and the people are ultimate arbiters of your conduct,” he said.

The Guyana government had said it would be appealing Justice Kissoon’s decision that states that after several years and numerous efforts by the GTU to get government to collectively bargain for increased wages, the teachers’ 29-day strike in February and March, 2024 was lawful and legitimate. Government said the Judge’s decision was flawed because he conflated the constitutional freedom to strike with the non-existent right to strike.

The judge further ruled that the teachers must be paid for the days they were on strike and that it was unconstitutional for the government to stop the automatic deduction and remittance of membership dues to the GTU as it interfered with the teachers’ right to freedom of association.