Saturday, September 24, 2011

Luncheon denies racial discrimination claim with scholarship allottees

-defence lawyers contradict themselves

HEAD of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon yesterday rejected the suggestion by Khemraj Ramjattan, another of the defence lawyers in the President Bharrat Jagdeo libel case, that 70 percent of scholarship awardees are Indo Guyanese.
Previously, the other defence lawyer, Nigel Hughes, had suggested to Dr. Luncheon that the majority of students who have been sent to study abroad are not Indo Guyanese, a clear contradiction to what Ramjattan suggested yesterday.
Dr Luncheon said that annually or aggregately, the number has never amounted to that percentage.
Dr Luncheon was asked whether the establishment of the Human Rights Commission under the Constitution is not important for persons who complain about racial discrimination. The Cabinet Secretary said the commission was not constituted, on the grounds that government is awaiting the leader of the Opposition who has failed to nominate a person for chairman.
Ramjattan questioned the witness about the role and functions of the Ombudsman, suggesting persons can go to complain about racial discrimination in the public service. Nandlall objected and pointed out that the functions of the Ombudsman are not matters of speculation, but are expressly stated in the Constitution.
Further it is stated in the Constitution that any grievance for which there is a legal remedy cannot be dealt with by the Ombudsman.
He continued that protection against discrimination is a fundamental right provided for by Article 149 of the Constitution, and any person who claims that he/she has suffered such grievance has uninhibited access to the High Court for redress under article 153 of the Constitution.
Nandlall further pointed out that article 92 of the Constitution specifically provides that matters concerning appointments and dismissal in the public service are expressly exempt from the office of the ombudsman.
“These are all matters which are contained in the Constitution,” the lawyer explained.
Ramjattan then passed to the court a text book written on the Guyana Constitution and again Nandlall objected, insisting that the Constitution itself be looked at.
Nandlall then passed the Constitution to the Court and after reading the provision of the Constitution, the judge upheld Nandlall’s objection.
There were heated arguments concerning the admission of a report prepared by Gay McDougal. When Dr Luncheon was being cross-examined on the report, he explained that the government prepared a repudiation of the report which he, as Cabinet secretary, organized.
He said he was unaware of the contents as a team of persons prepared it. The report was presented to the United Nations.
Attempts were then made to ask the HPS questions on the document, and Nandlall objected on the ground that the document was inadmissible and offered to put his objection and reason in writing.
The judge agreed, and ordered Ramjattan to do a response in writing. Ramjattan indicated that apart from the report, that would be the end of his cross-examination.
Nandlall then said he is prepared to commence re - examination when the matter comes up again on September 28.

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