Fmr. Gov’t created, gave sweeping privileges, immunities to special land agency
Mercedes Benz and 2021 Cadillac Escalade imported tax free
By Kurt Campbell
The David Granger-led Coalition government in 2018 created and gave a gamut of privileges and immunities to what is structured as a regional diplomatic, autonomous and intergovernmental institution in an agreement that has now raised serious questions.
Guyana was designated as the headquarters of the Partnership for Sustainable Land Management (PISLM), but the arrangements under which it was set up were not known until Tuesday.
It offers its members and staff a range of freedoms akin to that of a diplomat and raised eyebrows at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Tuesday, June 29, when two luxury vehicles, for which diplomatic plates have been assigned, arrived in the country.
The News Room understands that top officials within the People’s Progressive Party government were shocked to learn of the 2018 “Host Country Agreement” through which the vehicles – a 2019 Mercedes G550 and a 2021 Cadillac Escalade – were imported without attracting any duties.
According to the agreement, there exists a PISLM Task Force (Board) for which embattled former head of the Guyana Lands and Survey’s Commission Trevor Benn is the Chairman.
The agreement was signed by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge on behalf of the Government of Guyana and Benn on behalf of PISLM.
“The Government of Guyana shall grant PISLM’s scientific and administrative staff and their dependents privileges and immunities not less favourable than those granted to the staff of comparable rank of other intergovernmental organisations,” Article IV of the agreement, seen by the News Room, noted.
Those privileges include exemption from paying income tax and social security, exemption from paying customs duty and Value Added Tax (VAT) on personal belongings, vehicles and exemptions from having to be granted work permits.
The staff are allowed to bring into Guyana a reasonable amount of foreign currency for personal use and to withdraw and repatriate such amount from Guyana under external account facilities.
They have also been granted, through the agreement, immunity from legal process in respect of words spoken or written or acts performed by them in their official capacity until that person is no longer an official of PISLM.
Non-resident consultants were also being granted these privileges.
Interestingly, the agreement has also made the facilities and homes of PISLM officials inviolable, preventing any government official, whether judicial, police or military, from entering the premises without consent from PISLM.
“All archives and records, correspondence, documents and other material of PISLM shall be inviolable,” it added.
All communications and publications are free from censorship and interception.
PISLM was reportedly created to be a grouping that would support the objectives of the 10-year strategy of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Mr. Calvin James is the Executive Director and the office is located at 22 Hadfield Street, D’ Urban Backlands, Georgetown, Guyana.