In light of the government being sued for $49M by former Guyana High Commissioner to Canada, Harry Narine Nawbatt, the Foreign Affairs Ministry is contending that it is customary practice where a change in Administration may result in the termination of services of “non-career diplomats” who serve as Heads of Missions at the pleasure of the President of the day on a contractual basis.
In a media statement today, the Foreign Affairs Ministry explained that in practice, such Heads of Missions would “normally” submit their resignations when that Administration demits office.
It said that in May 2015, there were only two career diplomats heading Guyana Missions and consequently upon the results of the General Elections held in the country last year, the services of all political/non-career officers would have “come to an end anyway.”
According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, of those political appointees, it was only Ambassador Bayney Karran, who heads Guyana’s Embassy in Washington, DC, and is also Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States, that submitted a letter of resignation.
“In doing so, he indicated his availability and willingness to serve the new Administration if so desired. On the other hand, notwithstanding the protocol of resignation mentioned above, Mr Nawbatt and the other political officers submitted no letters of resignation or expression of willingness to serve. His contract, like those of the other non-career officers, can be said to have been thereby frustrated,” the media statement further said.
As such the Foreign Affairs Ministry is declaring that it is “remarkable therefore, although not surprising” given the effrontery of some of those officers that Nawbatt could claim to have been, since May 11, 2015, in a position to give and receive instructions and to discharge duties as a diplomatic representative of Guyana.
“In any case, the Ministry wishes to point out that there is no record of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs having any involvement in the settlement of the terms of the contract to which Mr Nawbatt has made reference. The contract on which he is basing his appeal was signed a mere few weeks before the 2015 elections. He and the other persons signing such contracts would have been aware of the risks involved in signing so close to national elections, a document linked to the provision of service to a President and Administration whose tenure was the subject of the very elections,” the Ministry noted.
It also added that such contracts ought to have been extended to May 11th or 12th or end of May as agreed by the Inter-Party Transition Committee and that it is also unaware of when Nawbatt left his post in Canada.
Nawbatt is suing the APNU+AFC coalition government for what he deems to be wrongful dismissal and a breach of a contractual agreement which he had inked under the previous Administration.
Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall is part of a team of lawyers representing Nawbatt who is requesting that the Court rule in his favour by awarding him damages in excess of $25M for breach of contract and “special” damages in the sum of $24,295,104.
Nawbatt was appointed High Commissioner in February 2015.
In documents filed in the Court, he is claiming that there was a contract of employment made on February 9, last year, between himself and the Government of Guyana. He was tasked with performing the functions and duties of High Commissioner to Canada as of the following day (February 10, 2015) being paid a monthly salary of $773,801. This contract would have expired on February 9 this year (2016).
According to the contract, the cost of education for Nawbatt’s children would be paid by the Government and he was also entitled to other allowances.
It should be noted that Nawbatt would have been allowed to terminate his services providing that a written notice of three months was given. Likewise the government would have had to give notice for the same time frame or pay Nawbatt six months’ salary and Station Allowance if such notice was not given.
However, he contends that in a letter dated June 8, 2015, less than one month the APNU+AFC coalition took office, the Director General (ag) of the Foreign Affairs Ministry wrongfully and “in repudiatory breach” of the above-mentioned contract purported to terminate his employment and therefore wrongfully dismissed him.
INews was told that the letter which has been included in the statement of claim says that Nawbatt’s appointment would end on August 31st, 2015 and that he should report to Georgetown.
According to Nawbatt, he is owed $4.3M for salary up to February this year; $5.7M in gratuity, payment of $4M for 158 days leave; $4.8M in station allowance; $4.6M in station allowance for leave for five months and $2M in business class return air passages, among other things.