— says judiciary was ‘emasculated’ by PPP/C Administration
Dismissing criticisms that he has been interfering in matters of the Judiciary, Attorney General Basil Williams has made it clear that the dysfunctional judiciary was “emasculated” by the former People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
Speaking at his first press conference for the year, the Attorney General said the criticisms made against him and the APNU+AFC Administration have no merit as it relates to the alleged interference in the Judiciary. He believes that the critics are confusing the concerns of letter-writers and others with that of the Attorney General and the Government.
“For my part, I don’t have to do anything; the acting Chancellor himself established a precedent in the case of the acting Chief Justice Ian Chang last year,” he said, adding that it was Justice Singh who advised him that the former acting Chief Justice needed to proceed on pre-retirement leave and then demit office upon attaining age 65.
“The acting Chancellor Carl Singh gave me the particulars for Mr Chang… that is how we were able to determine [his pre-retirement] because of the advice given by the acting Chancellor Carl Singh… The acting Chancellor who is Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) supplied me with all that information, so it would be strange to me that having done that in the case of acting Chief Justice Chang, in his case that it would be different,” the Attorney General said.
He said by the establishment of the precedent, the Chancellor would have to proceed on pre-retirement leave and then on his birthday, which is February 23, he would have to demit office as was the case with the former Chief Justice.
“There is no need for me to make any noise. I have seen the writers and I benefited from reading the papers, but I didn’t need to do that because Chancellor established that precedent,” said Senior Counsel Williams.
Justice Singh is expected to proceed on pre-retirement leave at the end of this month.
Additionally, Williams addressed the criticisms made by both former President now Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran about the independence of the Judiciary.
“It is under the tenure of Mr Jagdeo that our judiciary was emasculated – our judiciary you’d recall, the powers were removed from the Chief Justice’s Office and reposed in the Office of the Chancellor and then what they did, whenever there was a meeting of the Opposition Leader, Jagdeo always asserted Carl Singh to remain.”
He said it is important that there is a dichotomy between the Chief Justice’s Office and the Chancellor’s functions in terms of sharing the work of the judiciary ,“so that one person alone would not be in charge of the entire judiciary.”
The lack of separation between the two offices has affected the country significantly, the Attorney General stated, while noting that a situation was created whereby the Chancellor appointed those who should be magistrates, judges and those who sit on the Court of Appeal, an unhealthy situation occurred.
“How could that be healthy?” questioned the Attorney General.
“At the end of the day, it means he would be sitting on appeals of decisions of the people he actually handpicked to sit on cases; that couldn’t be well for the administration of justice,” the Senior Counsel added.
Williams noted that there were several misgivings under the former President’s watch and reminded that the Constitution is premised on the separation of powers: the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature.
“They all have independent roles and no one should tread on the work of the other. What he have under Jagdeo – we had a marauding of the judiciary, so the complaint is not that there is interference with the judiciary, the judiciary under Jagdeo is interfering in the work of the executive and that is happening till now.”
He called out former Speaker Ramkarran who at one time was a member of the PPP/C. “Where was Mr Ramkarran who was part and parcel of that?” he asked, as he pointed to the interference of the judiciary in the hiring of persons at the Deeds and Commercial Registry which has an independent board and pays itself.
“The judiciary is over-reaching — we will correct it. The judiciary cannot be concerned with the offering of legal services in Guyana; with transports, fees for transports, deed of gift, Power of Attorney, only the Executive could offer legal services and you see clearly how dysfunctional the judiciary was made under Jagdeo.
“It has chronic backlog of cases; we inherited a dysfunctional judiciary, so I don’t know what Jagdeo is talking about… we are going to correct it,” he declared.