Opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall has stated that Attorney General Basil Williams’s alleged threats against a High Court Judge, coupled with his recent history of attacks on the Judiciary, paint a picture that he (Williams) is of the view that the Judiciary must deliver rulings in favour of the Government.
At a press conference held on Saturday to further clarify what had transpired in the High Court on Thursday, Nandlall said it appears as though Williams is yet to get accustomed to being the Attorney General of Guyana, given the position he has taken regarding the Judiciary.
“Judges and the Judiciary have been ruling against the Government from time immemorial; that is indispensable indicia, an ingredient of democracy. The fact that the Attorney General has a problem with that establishes the point I want to make: he believes that the Judiciary should not rule against the Government. That demonstrates a mentality that the Judiciary must be compliant with the Government,” Nandlall stated.
He said the fact that the Attorney General holds such a view is by itself an indictment on him. “So when there is a ruling that is adverse to the state, (Williams) begins to abuse the judges and threaten the judges; because…his mind cannot process that as a possibility, or as a norm, or as a function of a democratic society. And therein lies the fundamental problem. We have been in government for the past (23) years and we have had hundreds of rulings against us… That is the norm… You don’t go around busing the judges and telling them, ‘The last person who ruled against me was found dead’,” the former Attorney General posited.
According to reports, the High Court’s Justice Franklin Holder walked off the bench on Thursday following an exchange with Williams, during which the AG allegedly threatened him. Nandlall said in a previous statement that after three hours of futile and ineffective cross-examination, Williams became agitated and accused the Judge of not accurately recording an answer from the witness.
“The Judge took umbrage at the accusation, and an angry Williams, in a loud tone of voice, repeated the accusations. The Judge again admonished him about the accusation and about his tone of voice. Williams then blurted out loudly, ‘I will speak how I want and say what I want anywhere I want… Furthermore, the last Magistrate who did that to me was later found dead… and I am saying so… that the last Magistrate who did this to me was found dead’,” Nandlall said in a statement detailing the events. He added that the Judge then walked off the bench without adjourning the matter.
However, at a press conference on Friday, Williams denied the allegation, saying that it was Nandlall who had caused the Judge to abruptly leave the courtroom.
According to Williams, he “saw the judge was about to leave, and so I said ‘ex abundante cautela — out of excessive caution — could I enquire whether the answer ‘no’ was recorded?’ The judge, to my surprise, said, ‘Mr. Williams, you’re not in charge of my court,’ and I said, ‘Sir, not me, but that could safely be said of Mr Nandlall, who has been trying to control your court for the entire morning’.”
The AG went on to say that following further exchanges about an encounter with a Magistrate, he said, “Incidentally, that Magistrate is dead now,” and “I moved on and the Judge and I continued addressing issues.”
Williams contended that “Mr Nandlall then jumped in in his usual style, as he was doing for the entire morning; and thereupon the Judge left the bench. My own view is that the Judge had intended to leave, I probably detained him by asking a further question.”
However, at Saturday’s press conference, Nandlall rubbished the AG’s version of events, saying several persons had witnessed what transpired in the courtroom. “These include: Carvil Duncan; Carvil Duncan’s Confidential Secretary, Diana Persaud; Attorney-at-Law Rajendra Jaigobin; Two State Counsel of the AG Chambers; members of the press; two Marshals of the High Court; my Personal Assistant, Shivun Hutson; and a few other persons”.
The AG has even threatened to sue Guyana Times and Kaieteur News for publishing the assertion that he had threatened the Judge. He has also threatened legal action against Nandlall, who said he would successfully defend any such litigation.
Following publication of the threats, the Office of the Opposition Leader on Friday evening strongly condemned the alleged actions of the Attorney General, and called upon President David Granger to immediately launch an investigation into the matter with a view to removing the Attorney General from office.
According to the release from the Opposition Leader’s Office, “A failure by the President to act decisively in this matter would certainly send an ominous signal.” The statement continued that the party stands firm in solidarity with the Judiciary, and will continue to struggle to ensure that the integrity, independence and dignity of judges are protected and maintained.
Nandlall said on Saturday that he would be guided by this call coming from the Leader of the Opposition, while opting not to comment on the course of action the Opposition would take if Government fails to take action against the AG. He further noted that he is hoping Justice Holder would lodge a report with his superior, following which some light would be shed on what had really transpired in court on Thursday.