AG seeks strike out proceedings

…Nandlall accuses him of pressuring judiciary

Red House fiasco

The Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams on Monday presented before acting Chief Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards, reasons why the legal proceedings on the Red House dispute should be strike out.

The legal proceedings were filed by Attorneys Anil Nandlall and Priya Manickchand (applicants) on behalf of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Inc – challenging the State’s decision to revoke the Red House lease.

The Red House which houses the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre
The Red House which houses the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre

Following the brief in-court hearing in the Chief Justice’s Chambers on Monday, AG Williams told media operatives that he made submissions to show why the court should not hear the matter on the Red House issue.

Williams contended that the court has no jurisdiction on the matter since the Red House lease is invalid and therefore could not be pleaded in any court of justice.

“I informed the court that he (Nandlall) failed to disclose that the lease, being a lease for 99 years and exceeding 21 years, he failed to show that it was executed in the manner of a transport as is required by Section 13 of the Deeds Registry Act… If it wasn’t, then it is invalid and could not be pleaded in any court of justice. They (applicants) never indicated if the lease was filed as a matter of record in the registry; that again would mean that you could not plead it in any court,” the AG explained.

He argued that the lease should have been executed in the manner of a transport, whereby it is gazetted and anyone who wishes to oppose the transaction can file a notice of opposition.

According to the AG, the case should be thrown out because the applicants failed to make full and frank disclosures before the court.

“The application made by Mr Nandlall on behalf of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Inc was a very bare affidavit and I submitted to the Chief Justice that he had failed to make full and frank disclosures to her about the contention in his claim in the affidavit that the lease was valid, binding and of legal effect,” AG Williams posited.

The AG claimed that, among the material non-disclosures Nandlall made in his affidavit are about the fee for rental of the Red House and the absence of presidential sanctioning of the lease.

“I submitted to her, when a lawyer or any applicant goes ex-parte to the court, that person is under an obligation, a duty, to be candid with the court and to make material disclosures full and frank that are within his or her knowledge. In addition, they are required to make disclosure of additional material facts that could have been discovered if they made reasonable investigations in relation thereto,” he emphasised.

Moreover, the AG contended that no one can challenge the decision by the President, as recognised in the affidavit, to revoke the Red House lease.

“They cannot come to the court to sue the President, under Article 182, the President cannot be sued. You cannot institute any civil action for any decision made by the President in the functions of executing his Office as President,” Williams asserted.

The AG posited that these points should be valid enough to prevent the acting Chief Justice from proceeding further with the Red House matter.

Judicial pressure

On the other hand, Nandlall argued that the AG’s contentions are deeply flawed and that the points made do not relate to the jurisdiction of the court.

“They relate to whether the case has merits or not, and they are premature to be made at this stage of the proceedings,” he stated.

In any case, Nandlall posited that the points made are devoid of merit, deeply flawed and frivolous.

Furthermore, Nandlall has accused the AG of pressuring the Chief Justice by signifying on several occasions that the President has a special interest in the Red House proceedings.

“The Attorney General continues to use the name of the President in his presentation to the court in a manner that is clearly intended to place pressure on the judge. He said to the judge on more than two occasions, that the President is anxiously awaiting a determination of this case because the President wants to house the national trust in that building,” he explained.

The former Attorney General contended that this mannerism is highly improper.

“The Attorney General is using the President’s name in what I consider to be an overt attempt to sap the independence from the judge. All are equal before the law, the President is not entitled to a treatment superior to any other litigant in the eyes of the law,” Nandlall asserted.

The matter will be called up again in the High Court on March 2.