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first_imgCabinet has made no decision to impose any “travel ban” on graduates and students of the University of Guyana (UG) who have defaulted on their repayment of student loans.Foreign Affairs Minister Carl GreenidgeFinance Minister Winston JordanThe matter was raised on Wednesday at the level of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Foreign Affairs when Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and Citizenship Minister Winston Felix appeared to testify before the Committee.Finance Minister Winston Jordan on Saturday last announced that all information on recalcitrant borrowers would be placed at immigration points in an effort to enforce the ban.He had explained that the decision was taken by Cabinet after the forensic audit, conducted by accounting firm HLB, R Seebarran and Co, into the UG Student Loan Agency revealed that from the year 1994 to May 2015, some 17,567 or 69.4 per cent of 25,335 student loans were deemed delinquent after students did not honour their debt.People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament Nigel Dharamlall queried what he called unconfirmed reports that the Finance Minister had indicated that in order to recoup monies owed to UG, ports of entry and exit would be monitored.The query was posed to Minister Felix who holds the substantive portfolio for the migration sector, who in turn told the Committee that the proposal by Jordan was nothing new.Jordan had made the announcement at the commissioning of the new Student Loan Building at the University of Guyana.Felix told the Committee, chaired by Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, “as far as I know, this is nothing new…All I can tell you, is if you know you study at Government’s expense and now you want to go outside, in your contractual arrangement it says what you must do if you want to travel.”Minister Felix was, however, confronted with the supposition that there could have been some misinterpretation of the Finance Minister’s assertion, since according to Teixeira, travel restrictions are provided for bonded students, but there was now talk of a “travel ban”.Teixeira was adamant that had Minister Jordan been misinterpreted then the onus was on him or Government to present a clarification to the public since his announcement has caused a significant level of uneasiness across the country.“If the news media is misrepresenting what the Minister said, then Government has to correct it,” said Teixeira.She informed the Committee that imposing a travel ban on students was completely different to enforcing restrictions on bonded students.According to Felix, “All I am going to say that in terms of execution, that has not reached me as yet.”He was speaking to the fact that as Minister with responsibility for migration, he has not been formally made aware of any such decision by Government or presented with an execution plan.“I will be waiting to see what the Honourable Minister (Jordan) really intends…I don’t know where that statement came from,” said Felix.The Minister of Citizenship was adamant that no such directive has been circulated within the official Government circles, specifically the Cabinet (Council of Ministers).Foreign Affairs Minister Greenidge, at this point, made it clear that media reports sometimes use language very ‘loosely”.According to Greenidge, “I am not aware that Cabinet made any such decision.” He suggested too that the words “travel ban” might have been inadvertently used.He subsequently explained to several concerned employees at Parliament Building—all of whom were concerned over the proposal—that a ban could not be put in place since that would be unconstitutional.Over the weekend, former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall had also reacted to the announcement by Minister Jordan, calling it unconstitutional.Nandlall had told Guyana Times instituting a travel restriction for UG students with outstanding loan debts was a decision made on the premise of overwhelming incompetence and a blatant violation of constitutional rights.Nandlall argued that the travel ban went against all existing laws, and pointed out that one wrong could not be corrected by another.“Any first-year law student would know that the Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana; that the Constitution confers upon every citizen certain fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom of movement, which includes the right to leave and enter Guyana. Every first-year law student would also know that a person cannot lose these fundamental rights and freedoms if they breach a contract, even a contract with the State,” the Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) asserted.He contended that the principle applied even if the contract provided as a penalty for non-payment a travel restriction.“That contractual term would be unenforceable because one cannot “contract away” one’s constitutional rights. In any event, these loan agreements contain no provision in relation to prohibiting the borrower from leaving the country…. Different pieces of legislation specifically provide how and in what circumstances a person can be prohibited from leaving the jurisdiction,” he explained. UG student loans…says no such decision made by Cabinetlast_img

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