(CMC) – Former attorney general, Anil Nandlall, said Tuesday that the decision of the Guyana government to take control of the operations of the Berbice Bridge is “incontrovertible evidence of authoritarianism” being practiced by the David Granger administration.
Government Monday said it had taken control of the bridge in the interest of public safety. The move comes amid efforts by the company operating the facility for hefty increase in the toll paid by motorists and other users.
Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson, said in a statement that the government would do everything in its powers to alleviate disruption to the public and ensure that the assumption of these functions is as smooth as possible.
“The truth is, too many of our citizens are dependent on the continuous operations and use of the Berbice Bridge and we should not allow anyone to unreasonably and capriciously endanger their livelihood and public order in one of our vital regions,” Patterson said.
But in a letter published in the local media, Nandlall, who served as attorney general in the last government, said that the decision to take over the bridge “must have shocked the conscience of every law-abiding citizen of this land.
“This is nothing short of the State compulsorily acquiring private property without any expressed intention to pay adequate compensation at market value as is required by Article 142 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,” Nandlall wrote, noting that the legislation is designed to protect private property against the State expropriating the same without compensation.
Nandlall said that the People’s National Congress (PNC), which is the main party in the coalition administration, has a history of compulsory acquiring private property while in office recalling the situation he said existed during the 1970s and 1980s.
“I have written profusely over the past three years on these matters contending that these are all incontrovertible evidence of authoritarianism,” Nandlall wrote, adding that the takeover of the Berbice Bridge is “the naked authoritarian nature of this Government being displayed.
“Rather than negotiate from a position that recognizes and respects private property, this Government has chosen the big-stick method of bullyism. This act of the Government will certainly cause irreversible damage to Guyana’s image as an investment destination,” he added.
Last month, the government said that it would not sanction the new increases in the toll as announced by the Berbice River Bridge (BRB) company describing the move as “unreasonable”.
The BRB had announced that effective November 12, there would be a significant increase in the toll after indicating that it had no other alternative.
“The company, unfortunately, has accumulated losses in excess of GUY$2.8 billion (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents), has never paid dividends to its ordinary shareholders and is now in default of obligations to its numerous stakeholders, including the NIS (National Insurance Scheme),” said BRB chief executive officer, Dr. Surendra Persaud.