Army officers sue for Christmas bonus

In what is clearly an unprecedented case, a group of local army officers has sued Chief of Staff Commodore Gary Best in civilian court in a bid to force him to pay them government-ordered annual Christmas bonuses approved by cabinet last year.

A writ to the effect was filed in the high court last weekend by four officers including a major. A major is a senior officer. The group claims that the bonuses have been traditionally paid to all officers and ranks by the Guyana Defense Force without any conditions so they are asking the court to rule against Best for not paying dozens of officers and other ranks because they had faced disciplinary reasons for one reason or the other last year.

Best had asked for a list of those disciplined internally during the period, telling them they were disqualified for the bonus while others were paid. Best and the army top brass have refused comment on the issue.

Failing to win a change of heart after months of lobbying, the group of four filed the writ in the court. The first hearing is slated for next week.

Presidential spokesman Kwame McKoy said Monday cabinet officials had not paid any particular “attention to the developments”, promising to check with defense board in the coming days as to how authorities will respond to the chief of staff being dragged before the law courts. The writ was served on him at base command Friday.

Immediate past army chief Brig. Gen. Edward Collins said “there has been no such precedent that we know of” noting that bonus payments date back to almost a decade and no conditions were attached.

The writ argued that President Donald Ramotar had not attached any rules about payments so officers and ranks who were blanked for payments should be paid like others in the 2,500-strong defense force, formed in 1965, a year before Guyana gained independence from Britain.

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