By Jasminee Sahoye
In a rare move for a diplomat relieved of their duties at an overseas mission, Guyana’s former high commissioner to Canada has taken a bold step by suing the Guyanese government for more than GYD$49 million, equivalent to more than CAD$300,000.
According to an online news site in Guyana, Demerara Waves, Harry Narine Nawbatt, who served in Ottawa since 2011 under the previous PPP/C government, is suing for damages in excess of GYD$25 million (CAD$155,783.00) for breach of contract of employment and special damages for GYD$24,295,104 (CAD$151,390).
A senior source associated with Caribbean diplomatic issues told The Camera that although the post of high commissioner is considered a political appointee, that person would be accredited as the principal representative at the highest level to the capital of a country.
“That person serves only at the wishes and pleasures of the government in power, not the past government, not the future and therefore to claim wrongful in the sense of early termination of a contract, that in itself is unlikely to hold water. What pertains is the termination provisions in the contract.”
As an example in an extreme case, the source added, is if the person who was appointed as high commissioner has a contract which is due to expire on June 30, 2017, then it’s possible that the person can be terminated immediately, both in terms of the laws of their country and the laws of the host country. However, the sources added, “They have to be paid almost all if not all the things that would have been due to them, if they had served until June 30, 2017.”
Audrey Waddell, director general in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guyana in a letter to Nawbatt stated: “I have been directed to inform you that your appointment as high commissioner of Guyana to Canada will end on Aug. 31, 2015, at which time you will be reposted to Guyana. Accordingly you are hereby asked to finalize all the necessary arrangements relating to the conclusion of your post and departure. Please note that all benefits accruable at post will end on Aug. 31, 2015.”
Nawbatt said he could have given the Guyanese government three months written notice that he wanted to terminate the contract. Similarly, the government could have given similar notice but also was required to pay him six months’ salary and station allowance in lieu of notice.
Nawbatt, who is represented by a string of lawyers including former attorney general Anil Nandlall of the PPP/C regime, said in papers filed in court in Guyana that Nawbatt was contracted for Feb. 10, 2015, to Feb. 9, 2016, by the Guyanese government as high commissioner at a monthly salary of GYD$$773,801, (CAD$4,822) with a monthly station allowance of US$4,500.
The contract also states that he is entitled to 22½% of the basic salary payable in six-monthly periods or on termination of his contract of employment, the papers say.
He was also entitled to a chauffeur-driven car at no cost to him, business class air fares between Guyana and the city of his posting for himself, spouse and children under 25 years old, as well as approved excess baggage charges and cash for unused tickets.
Nawbatt further claims that the Guyana government agreed to pay for hotel and travelling expenses incurred by him, his spouse and children under 25 prior to the provision of free furnished accommodation. When he had to remain in a hotel in excess of two months, he was required to meet one-third of the cost of meals for him and his family.
He said the Guyanese government had agreed to pay for shipping personal effects, including one 20-foot container and two private vehicles to and from Guyana or the place of his residence to the city of his posting and / or such other place of convenience on the termination of the contract of employment or between posts in the event of transfer from one post to another.
Nawbatt also claims he was entitled to a waiver of all duties / taxes eligible in Guyana on his personal effects and / or the motor vehicles and that he was entitled to 42 days vacation leave or payment of salary, station allowance or other relevant allowances in lieu thereof.
He said the Guyanese government agreed to reimburse him 66⅔% of premiums payable in regard to a plan or plans of insurance provided on an individual or group basis, for medical, dental, hospitalization and post-hospitalization benefits for himself, his spouse and dependents provided the insurance was maintained and / or operative in the country where he is stationed.