President expresses confidence in AG

first_imgLosing streak…blames former Govt, staff for losing casesPresident David Granger on Friday threw his support behind his Attorney General, Basil Williams, who has lost a number of the State’s cases since coming to office.Granger, who was hosting one of his first press conferences in two years, instead laid the blame for the Attorney General’s performance at the feet of the former Government. According to Granger, “you can’t win everything.”“No one wants to lose cases,” Granger said. “As far as I can see, he is a very experienced lawyer and once you go to the courts, you expect that the outcomesAttorney General Basil Williams, SCmay not necessarily be in your favour. But you can’t win everything and I think that he has worked hard (but) you have to look at the team which he has to work with.”He added that there are other cases which are pending, and the AG, like some other Ministers, has to make internal changes in the Ministry in order to get the best quality legal representation. “I do not feel that in the past we had the best representation. Some of the cases which we inherited were lost before we started, because the representation was inadequate.”But he noted that if the Government had had better representation over the years, they would not have lost so much money because of claims against the State.“So I wouldn’t blame the Minister of Legal Affairs. I think that within that Ministry there were some persons who were not necessarily doing the best for the Government of Guyana,” he said.Red HouseLast year, President Granger gave the occupants of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC) 48 hours to vacate the premises; a directive which Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had described as “unconscionable and vindictive”.On August 9, the Opposition People’s Progress Party secured two conservatory High Court orders blocking the State from ejecting the CJRC from the property, once the official residence of former President, the late Dr Cheddi Jagan.Acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, overruled every submission made by Attorney General Basil Williams, and refused his request that the CJRC case be dismissed.The Chief Justice upheld submissions made by Attorney and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall on behalf of the CJRC: that there are serious issues to be tried, and those cannot be determined at the interlocutory stage.Land leasesIn 2014, a number of farmers were granted 50-year leases for State land, located in the rear of Number 40 Village, West Coast Berbice, by then President Donald Ramotar.In March of 2016, however, they received letters from the Mahaica Maichony Abary/Agriculture Development Authority (MMA/ADA) informing them that President David Granger cancelled their leases and they must cease occupation and return the land to the MMA/ADA.The applicants; Brian George and Tiffany Hubbard, Joylyn Nicholson, Gratien Nicholson, Vaughn Aaron and Herman Nicholson, sought justice in the courts. They were represented by Attorneys Nandlall and Manoj Narayan among others, while the State and the MMA–ADA was represented by Attorney General Basil Williams.On the same day as the Red House judgement, the Chief Justice ruled against the President’s revocation of rice farmers land leases, deeming it unconstitutional. She also ruled that the farmers are entitled to compensation from the State, amounting to the sum of $300,000.GECOM chairmanshipSince the retirement of former Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally, the Commission has been headless. As the Constitution requires the Opposition Leader to nominate persons to the post, Jagdeo submitted his first list of names in December 2016.However, the list was rejected by President Granger on the grounds that Article 161 (2) of the Constitution prescribes that nominees must either be qualified to be a Judge or be fit and proper. A second list submitted by the former President in April 2017 was treated similarly.But in March, local businessman Marcel Gaskin moved to the High Court to challenge the constitutionality of the President’s reasoning. That judgement was handed down last month.While she acknowledged that the President can determine who fits the bill of “fit and proper”, the Chief Justice overruled the President’s interpretation of the Constitution by finding that there is no particular preference for the appointment of persons within the Judiciary.Other casesThe AG’s track record in office as the State’s representative also includes a $1.5 billion settlement with Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) over taxes. It was a case which was over a decade old.Following the settlement, Jagdeo had said that the out of court settlement sets the wrong precedence and could open the gate for other companies to seek tax refunds. And indeed, another company followed suit with a claim against the State.Despite appealing the court’s decision to quash the Government’s termination notice to a Haags Bosch contractor, Williams also drew criticism when a huge settlement was negotiated with the Joint Venture contractors. This is despite previous criticisms of the shoddy work done.last_img

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