Address of His Excellency Brigadier David Granger President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana at the Swearing-in Ceremony of the Ombudsman on May 17, 2017
Ombudsman…the public advocate
The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana prescribed from the start, at time of Independence in 1966, the establishment of an Ombudsman. Guyana became the first country in the western hemisphere and the second Commonwealth state to enshrine the position of Ombudsman in its Constitution.
The decision to establish an Ombudsman in Guyana had its genesis in the Report of the British Guiana Commission of Inquiry Constituted by the International Commission of Jurists October 1965. Racial Problems in the Public Service.
Mr Forbes Burnham – the Premier of British Guiana at that time – had invited the International Commission of Jurists to send a team to undertake an appraisal of racial imbalances in the country’s public services in 1965 in the aftermath of the bloody ‘Disturbances’ of 1964. The ‘Report’ of the Commission of Inquiry noted, inter alia, that:
.. since there will be cases of alleged discrimination where it will not be practicable to invoke the Constitution in the courts as a means of redress, it would be desirable to have a simple, swift and inexpensive procedure for investigating such cases.
The Report noted, further, that the government of the day, recognizing the need to investigate maladministration (including racial discrimination), supported the idea of an Ombudsman vested with constitutional authority.
The ‘Constitution’ vests the Ombudsman with the authority to investigate claims of injustice suffered as a result of maladministration in government. The Constitution (at Article 192 (1)) states that the Ombudsman:
… may investigate any action taken by any department of Government or by any action taken by any department of Government or by any other authority to which this article applies, or by the President, Ministers, officers or members of such a department or authority, being action taken in exercise of the administrative functions of that department or authority.
The Ombudsman has been described as a protector and defender of citizens against injustices caused by maladministration. The Ombudsman provides an important service to the public. The services of the Ombudsman are free and timely. The Ombudsman serves as watchdog, guarding against abuse or the violation of citizens’ rights by public officials and their departments and authorities. The Ombudsman is the public advocate.
I take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the Government for the services of the late Justice Winston Moore who served with respectability and credibility in the office of the Ombudsman.
I take this opportunity to express the congratulations to his successor, Justice Winston Patterson, to whom I have just administered the oath of office. I wish him all success in his appointment.
I thank you.