The United National Congress (UNC) is seeking an injunction temporarily blocking the sale of Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery.
The party, through its former senator Wayne Sturge, filed the injunction application yesterday as part of a constitutional motion lawsuit over the failure of Finance Minister Colm Imbert to hold a Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Energy Affairs for the past 19 months.
In the injunction application, Sturge’s lawyer Gerald Ramdeen, who is also a former UNC senator, claimed that Imbert’s “deliberate and intentional inaction” undermined the rule of law and the democratic process as it prevented the deal over the refinery from being extensively scrutinised by the JSC.
“Interim relief is required in the circumstances of the case to preserve the sanctity of the Constitution and the rule of law and to ensure that the unlawfulness that has transpired for the past 20 months does not continue and to ensure that the state of unaccountable government that has existed for the past 20 months, in relation to the sale of the Petrotrin refinery does not continue,” Ramdeen said.
Ramdeen also suggested that the injunction would be in the interest of good public administration.
“The effect of not granting the injunction would condone the actions and decisions of the Executive in disposing of valuable State assets without the scrutiny of the JSC on Energy Affairs,” Ramdeen said.
If the UNC is eventually successful in its application, the injunction will only last while the substantive claim over the inactivity of the JSC is determined.
In the substantive lawsuit, Ramdeen claimed that Imbert’s handling of the situation breached the separation of powers.
“Not convening a meeting of a JSC of the Parliament for an unprecedented period of 20 months amounts to the Executive frustrating the will of the people by preventing the Parliament from performing one of its most crucial functions, holding the Executive accountable for its actions,” Ramdeen said.
He also suggested that Imbert’s decision was based on a desire to insulate his Government’s handling of Petrotrin from criticism.
“It is not a coincidence that the failure to hold a meeting of the JSC on Energy Affairs coincides with these significant decisions of the government,” Ramdeen said.
While Ramdeen admitted that Parliament’s Standing Orders does not give a fixed time-line for the holding of a JSC meeting, he claimed that the court was still empowered to review Imbert’s position.
Through the lawsuit, Sturge is seeking declarations that Imbert, as chairman of the JSC, acted unlawfully, illegally and unconstitutionally. Sturge is also seeking an order compelling Imbert to call an urgent meeting of the JSC.
A date for the first hearing of Sturge’s case had not been set, up to late yesterday.
Sturge is also being represented by Dayadai Harripaul and Umesh Maharaj.