The kind of negative reaction the Coalition Administration representatives received during a recent visit to New York, where they participated in a fund- raiser, came as no surprise; especially the treatment meted out to Attorney General Basil Williams. By now the Government must be aware that its policies and actions are not only being carefully monitored here in Guyana, but also by the thousands of Guyanese residing abroad, and whenever those Guyanese get the opportunity to voice their concerns over the behaviour of Government officials, they will do so. After all, many of them still do have a great interest in what is taking place at home.
Last Saturday’s protest in Richmond Hill, Queens attracted a huge crowd that seemed vocal in letting officials know how dissatisfied they are regarding recent developments here. What even sparked more outrage was the presence of Attorney General Basil Williams, who recently faced severe criticisms from several corners, particularly in relation to the now infamous case involving High Court Justice Franklin Holder.
The protesters shouted for Williams to “go home” and to “stop wasting taxpayers’ money”, as many of them felt that he was very unprofessional and disrespectful in his conduct, especially considering that he serves as a Minister of Government.
Justice Holder had walked off the bench without adjourning a case. This happened after an exchange of words with Williams, who was present in the courtroom as the State’s representative. The case had involved embattled Trade Unionist Carvil Duncan, who had moved to the courts to challenge the tribunal set up to determine if he should be removed from several constitutional posts in light of charges which were laid against him.
The judge, in a report complaining to the Judiciary, said he walked out of the courtroom without adjourning the matter because of Williams’s behaviour. He had also requested an apology, but Williams had, on different occasions, said there was no need for him to apologise, and instead had suggested that the judge recuse himself.
The High Court proceedings were left at a standstill because of the impasse between Holder and Williams. Justice Holder subsequently did recuse himself from the case, but accusations of interference in the Judiciary surfaced, since the judge’s recusal came days after Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo also requested that he does so.
Justice Holder had subsequently insisted that he made this decision in the interest of the administration of justice. The judge, giving reasons for his recusal, had explained to the court that the matter became politicised, and accused Williams of “egregious and disrespectful” behavior, which was contemptuous.
Those protesting over the weekend in New York also voiced their concerns over the Coalition Administration’s plan to downscale the sugar industry via closure of estates. The impact these closures would have on communities across Guyana could never be underestimated, and Guyanese in the diapora are rightfully concerned.
Sugar workers have, over the past few weeks, taken to the streets to highlight their concerns on the matter, with the hope that the Government would stop to listen. However, the powers that be have so far basically turned a blind eye and are operating as if they are unconcerned.
The Political Opposition, Private Sector Commission (PSC), and many other organisations in Guyana have also highlighted several valid reasons why the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) should be allowed to continue current operations, and even offered to work with the Administration to explore all possible options to avert closure of the estates.
It must be mentioned, too, that in spite of the many calls for the Administration to develop a plan of action to have the necessary impact assessments completed and to engage industry stakeholders, nothing concrete has been done in this regard.
We had stated on numerous previous occasions that no informed decision can be made on the sugar industry without proper and detailed impact assessments being carried out.