Government committed to the rule of law
- Nagamootoo condemns McKay's attack on alledged paramountcy of the party

Stabroek News
July 21, 1998

The government has deprecated the attack on its executive integrity by Mr. Rex McKay S.C. in an article in the Stabroek News on July l2.

In a statement Monday in a GIS press release Minister of Information Moses Nagamootoo said Mc Kay's charge that "party paramountcy" is being practised by this government is outrageous and without merit.

Nagamootoo said that under the doctrine of paramountcy practised by the People's National Congress when in power the government, the judiciary and other branches of the State were reduced to "administrative" arms of the PNC. "To give effect to paramountcy the Ministry of National Mobilisation was merged with the Office of the PNC's General Secretary, and public funds were appropriated for the new outfit.

The party's flag was flown at the Court of Appeal, and at Government Ministries and institutions. Judges were required to attend `policy orientation' sessions as `national service'; and the then heads of the security forces were commanded to swear allegiance to the ruling party".

Nagamootoo said that under paramountcy Parliament had been reduced by the PNC to a rubber-stamp, political opponents and dissidents were persecuted and some were placed on trumped-up criminal charges."The three trials of Arnold Rampersaud, a PPP supporter framed for murder highlighted the extent to which the PNC had stamped its influence on the judiciary".

The minister said the non-government and independent media were attacked and journalists were harassed. All criticisms were stifled, and a Minister of Information in the PNC Government described critics of the ruling party as "enemies of the State".

In his statement, the minister said that McKay's imputation that State decisions are taken at Freedom House was intended to use the PNC brush to tarnish this government. "The PPP is entitled in a democracy to conduct its representation for the Guyanese people. The fact that the President of the Republic, Ms. Janet Jagan, and her ministers in their capacity as party and civic leaders, routinely receive members of the public at Freedom House and listen to their problems, is an enlightened dimension of our new democratic norms. This should be little cause for complaint unless one wishes merely to be vexatious".

Nagamootoo denied that the political executive has usurped the statutory powers of public officers. He said CANU was set up under the law, and functions within the law. Criminal prosecution is done by the police on the advice of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. "The Prime Minister has never charged anyone, or ordered the DPP or police to do any such thing notwithstanding public policy pronouncements which are made from time to time".

He said the government wished to place on record that the Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs and the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs had never without lawful authority required any civil servant or public officer to execute their duties in conformity with their direction.

The minister said government rejected the claim that the executive was manipulating the Judicial Service Commission. He said government respected the independence of all service commissions and would protect this independence. Government also respected the separation of powers and would promote this as a "highly desirable feature of our multi-party democracy". The government was committed to respect for the rule of law and recognition of constitutional norms and principles, which included coroners inquests into the deaths of persons killed in altercations with the police.

The government, he said, like any government is not without personnel who may be regarded as less than acceptable. When there was a change in government after 28 years of authoritarianism, swift moves were made to exorcise certain personnel, several of whom had been dealt with in ways that are universally recognised. Some were suspended; others were interdicted; others were sent on special leave. In some cases some had elected to tender their resignations.

The Minister said that President Janet Jagan had given public assurances that this government is committed to act in good faith and will pursue all grievances through legitimate and acceptable channels.