Georgetown, Guyana – (December 31, 2016) The Government of Guyana refutes the irresponsible and untrue headlines and content, therein, of three articles, which were published in the Saturday, December 31, 2016 editions of the Stabroek News, the Kaieteur News and the Guyana Times. Contrary to the articles, the High Court did not grant the Conservatory Order, which was sought by Chairman of the Management Committee of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Incorporated (CJRCI) Mr. Hydar Ally, to prevent the revocation of a 99-year lease of the property granted under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration in 2012 for just USD$5 or GYD$1000 per month.
Subsequent to the hearing of the case brought against the Government by the CJRCI, before Chief Justice (Ag), Madame Yonette Cummings-Edwards, last evening, the Stabroek News, reported that, “Red House eviction on hold after court order -workers from Ministry of the Presidency broke sign, changed padlock.” The Guyana Times, in the first paragraph of its article headlined, “Red House outrage – Govt flouts court order, rips down sign,” states that “Workers of the Ministry of the Presidency hammered down the hallmark sign of The Red House even though a court order has blocked officers of the State from entering or removing any artefacts from the premises/building.”
The Kaieteur News, in its article headlined, “Ministry of the Presidency staff attempt takeover of Red House before eviction date,” states that “According to PPP/C member and Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall, he and former Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, who is also an attorney, filed legal proceedings in the Civil Jurisdiction of the High Court challenging the alleged revocation of the lease. “We sought certain Conservatory Orders or injunctions restraining the Attorney-General and every other officer of the state and or government from evicting, ejecting or in any way interfering with the peaceful and quiet occupation and possession of this building and this premises by the Cheddi Jagan Research Institute.” In that same report, Nandlall also is reported to have said that his “team also filed an order restraining all officers of the state from interfering with or removing any artefacts, material, property or archival matter stored in the building.”
Calling the accounts a gross disrespect to the Office of the Chief Justice, Minister Williams explained that the Conservatory Order was refused after it was pointed out, during yesterday’s hearing, that the declarations requested by Mr. Ally had no basis. Further to that, the Attorney General informed the Chief Justice that the lease was already cancelled and Government has taken possession of The Red House.
He [Nandlall] was there. He was there in association with Ms. [Priya] Manickchand and clearly they heard that the submissions of the Attorney General, that if the court were to act they would be acting in vain because one – the lease had already been cancelled [and] two – possession had already been taken of Red House. And the learned Chief Justice sought and got from me an undertaking that the contents of Red House; that is the materials related to Dr. Jagan and any research documents would not be thrown out. I don’t know how you associate documents being thrown out when President Granger is in charge; a historian, a man who is, actually right now trying to secure various artefacts on Guyana; national monuments, heritage sites and also the documents and materials relating to all eight previous Presidents,” Minister Williams said.
As a result, the Conservatory Order requested by Mr. Hydar Ally, representing the Management Committee of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Incorporated was refused.
The misinformation, the Attorney General said, peddled by the Opposition and carried by the media, without the latter determining the facts amounts to gross disrespect, not only for the Law of the land and for the judiciary, but personally too for Chief Justice Cummings.
“What they would actually be suggesting that Justice Cummings colluded with them and gave them that information or that Nandlall was totally oblivious of the fact that it’s a Chief Justice decision he’s referring to and he also had supporters of the PPP outside of The Red House say they were protesting and they were doing so in the erroneous belief that they had gotten the Conservatory Order and he actually endangered and created a dangerous situation, out there last night. So the fact of the matter is the learned Chief Justice refused the application for a Conservatory Order, accepted an undertaking that nothing would be done to the documents and research materials related to Dr. Cheddi Jagan until the hearing and determination of this action, which in fact is fixed for February 20, 2017 and she gave me leave to file an answer in 21 days and he got leave to file a reply in 14 days,” Minister Williams said.
Minister Williams posited that while the media has the right to report on all sides, it must act responsibly and must report fairly and accurately, disseminating only the facts to the public.
“If you’re the professional you know that you must confirm a story and in a matter as sensitive as this. I’m surprised that such journalistic work wasn’t done. It’s a gross dereliction of duty. I’m telling you that or it could be that they just turned a ‘Nelson’s eye’ to what the truth was… but they could have called the Chief Justice, tried to get to the court; the registrar. They could have called the Attorney General and they did not do that. It’s a scary thing, right now, in this country, that three newspapers could actually produce the same erroneous report of a decision of a high official, a high judicial official of this country,” he said.
The Government calls for an immediate correction of these headlines and articles and asks that media entities act more responsibly in the conduct of their very important function. While the Government of Guyana promotes and stands solidly in support of press freedom, it is also imperative that the media treat responsibly, their role to provide accurate information to the members of the public.
The Government further refutes the allegations, which were made by Opposition Leader, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who alleged that ranks from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) were sent by the People’s National Congress to remove staffers of the CJRC form the Red House. Mr. Jagdeo, in a Facebook post, alleged that “the PNC [Peoples National Congress] sent Army Ranks to remove the people working in Red House.”
Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier George Lewis, in an invited comment, refuted this claim and noted that it is disappointing that the Opposition Leader would drag the ranks and officers of the Force into this matter.
“The Guyana Defence Force was not a part of that operation… I spoke to all of my Commanders. None of my ranks were there or a part of that,” Brigadier Lewis said.