Berbice Bridge company responds to takeover

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Nov 6, CMC – The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBC) Tuesday said it would comply with the “unlawful” decision by the Guyana government to take control of the operations of the Berbice Bridge following a disagreement with the authorities on the implementation of increased toll.

“The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. considers, based on legal advice, that the Order is unlawful and ultravires under Section 11of the Berbice River Bridge Act on which it is based,” the company said in a statement.

Government Monday said it had taken control of the bridge in the interest of public safety  and 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 the BBC said while it had agreed to comply with “unlawful” toll order to temporarily take over the maintenance and operations of the bridge, it has written to the relevant Minister Tuesday requesting that he supplies the company with a statement seeking the facts and reasons on which the Order is based.

It said subject to the Minister’s response, it will consider its options which do not exclude a legal challenge to the Order.

“The BBC considers that it has no alternative but to comply with the Order issued by the Minister prohibiting the Company from implementing the Toll Order Adjustment announced on 16th October, 2018.”

Former attorney general, Anil Nandlall, has denounced the decision of the David Granger administration saying it is “incontrovertible evidence of authoritarianism” being practiced by the administration.

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.

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.