Guyana’s Attorney General, Basil Williams, has again found himself embroiled in a scandal, after he allegedly threatened a High Court Judge whilst sending a clear signal to judicial officials that they either conform and comply with his expectations by handing down favourable rulings to the Government regardless of the merits or demerits of cases brought against the State, or face the detrimental consequences which could follow if they dissent.
The AG, who was recently promoted by his boss, President David Granger, to the coveted post of Senior Counsel, also sought, shortly after the drama which unfolded in the Judge’s chambers, to deny publicly that he had ever directly or indirectly threatened the Judge. He went further by attempting to discredit Anil Nandlall’s version of what actually took place in Court, with the help of two junior Attorneys from his chambers.
But just when the public was buying the arguments put forward by the AG, who appeared to be the victim of the nasty politics being played by Mr Nandlall, who is also a former AG, in steps the Judge with a full statement on the matter. In classic Shakespearian style, Justice Franklin Holder’s statement exposed the current AG’s apparent deceptive nature and the fact that he was deliberately misleading the public to shield his misconduct during the court case; as well as his apparent distasteful behavior, which bordered on contempt before the Courts.
Now uncertain about what next damage control device to kick into high gear, Mr Williams retreated from the public limelight, which he so often enjoys, but is soon confronted by Guyana’s ever vigilant media. Faced with a series of blistering questions from the media corps, the AG is forced to swallow his pride and demonstrate some sort of humility and regret or repentance. The tone and mood were set by media operatives who appeared sympathetic to his Government, and were appropriate for him to do so, but the Senior Counsel refused, and instead chose to strike again.
When one examines the gravamen of his response, he, in essence, declined to offer an apology to the Judge and the Judiciary for the alleged disrespect he demonstrated. By doing so, Mr Williams again has shown disregard for his colleagues in the field of law and the Bar. He has also expressed indifference to mounting public dissatisfaction over the incident and his collective performance as the country’s AG. By his own actions, he has also proven that he is not answerable to the people, but to those who pay him, as he knows that his job in the coalition Government is secure, given Mr Granger’s track record on the subject of disciplining his ministers.
And as expected, the President, staying true to form, has already put on his scarce camera face. He claims that he has asked the AG for an explanation, but no one is fooled. As was the case when Ministers Nicolette Henry, Joseph Harmon, Volda Lawrence and George Norton found themselves in similar scandals, no direct disciplinary action will be taken. It will be business as usual until another scandal erupts, maybe in Mr Williams’s Ministry or some other part of the Government.
This is most unfortunate, because the Government’s popularity and creditability are sinking because of Ministers like Mr Williams. In fact, it is Mr Granger’s inherent refusal to take direct charge of his ship and crew that will see the coalition Government ultimately being defeated. The public is not likely to demonstrate indifference in 2020, because Mr Granger’s cabinet is demonstrating higher levels of incompetence and mismanagement of public funds that what was demonstrated by any PPP-led government in Guyana’s pre and post- independence history.
This Government has also become infamous for the adumbration of some of the poorest socio-economic policies, which threaten the livelihoods of the very same people it claims it wants to protect. It is clear that the coalition’s policies are failing. From the decisions to hike the super salaries of the APNU/AFC Ministers, to VAT on private education, to the controversial parking meters’ project, to the hardship caused by the unbelievable spate of new tax measures, to the pharmaceutical scandals and corruption, to mishandling of probes by the Government-controlled Special Organised Crime and State Assets Recovery units, to the looming increases on tuition fees for students of the University of Guyana, all of the coalition’s policies are failing.
The attitude demonstrated by Mr Williams is unforgiveable. His appointment as both a Senior Counsel and AG should be revoked, because he has tarnished both offices and brought the legal profession into disrepute. Recall the scandals with the appointment of the Deputy Registrar; the cases the State lost because of the AG’s actions, as alleged publicly by the Deputy Solicitor General; and a host of other matters which remain unaddressed, including the diatribe of attacks launched on former Chancellor Carl Singh.
President Granger must stand on principle, or he will soon lose the moral and political rectitude, or acumen, to lecture the PPP, or anyone for that matter, on the notion of good governance.