Georgetown, Guyana – (August 3, 2017) The Ministry of the Presidency (MotP) firmly rejects and condemns as wicked and dangerous, statements reportedly made by Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo at a public meeting in Leonora, West Coast Demerara on Sunday. The Opposition Leader appears to be bent on inciting fear and division even if it means being dishonest with members of the public. An INews Guyana report on Sunday, July 30, 2017, headlined “Jagdeo says Guyana heading towards dictatorship” was filled with several spurious and wild claims, which are not only unfairly injurious to the Head of State and the Government of Guyana but also the reputation of the members of the judiciary.
Mr. Jagdeo’s spurious claims came just days after President David Granger reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that the judicial system is one that reflects the values of independence, impartiality and integrity. Speaking at the opening of the new wing of the Victoria Law Courts on July 28, 2017, the Head of State said, “The effective administration of justice requires a judicial system characterized by independence, impartiality and integrity. The impartiality of the judiciary will be secured by insulating the judiciary, including appointment of judicial officers, from political influence. The Executive branch of Government has taken steps to ensure that the judiciary does not feel beholden to the government-of-the-day. The independence of the judiciary is guaranteed at Article 122 A (1) of the Constitution,” he said.
Article 122 (A) of the Constitution states, “All Courts and all persons presiding over courts shall exercise their functions independently of the control and direction of any other person or authority; and shall be free and independent from political, executive and any other form of direction and control.”
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams, in an invited comment today, said that the statements by the Opposition Leader about control and manipulation of the Judiciary, amounts to a vile and baseless attack on the members of that branch of Government, which he had emasculated and controlled to the extent where the Judiciary was denied its financial autonomy under his Presidency. The Attorney General said that this administration promotes an independent, impartial and unbiased judiciary and will not seek to interfere with its work as was done in the past.
In the article, it is reported that Mr. Jagdeo, “Making reference to the Guyana Power and Light Incorporated (GPL) metre case, which is currently before the courts, Jagdeo claimed that the Government was given preference in that matter since the case was brought forward for an early hearing.”
Minister Williams said that the article perpetuates a falsehood for malicious and cheap political points since nothing could be further from the truth. Minister Williams said that this matter was filed by Mr. Paul James of Fix It Depot after he lost the bid for a contract to run new power transmission lines and install over 25,000 smart meters on the coastland. Chief Justice (Ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards, on February 17, 2017 ruled in favour of the Government on the matter.
Minister Williams explained that based on the seriousness and urgency of the case, an emergency session was held where the Chief justice made her ruling. While Mr. James sought the Court’s assistance in determining whether the procurement clause be applied, in international agreements the law of the international donor takes precedence.
Additionally, in the same article, Mr. Jagdeo claims that, “We have seen cases where all the matters that we have before the courts now are deliberately delayed like the elections petition and so many other issues.” He is further quoted as stating, “If they go to the court – if a private citizen has a civil matter with the Government, they can direct the Judiciary to give a particular ruling.”
The Attorney General said it is ironic that the Leader of the Opposition has the temerity to make such a statement since the Election Petitions by Veronica Delph in 2001 and Andrea Marks in 2006 were never heard under his Presidency. However, Minister Williams said that the Elections Petition filed by the PPPC is being heard in the Courts of Guyana and as recent as February 21, 2017, the Stabroek News reported that the Full Court is reviewing written submissions before making an announcement on its decision.
Further, the Attorney General called on the Leader of the Opposition to make public, the list of cases, which have been deliberately delayed as he is claiming. “This new Government has had Judges appointed by Jagdeo [make] orders against the President of the Cooperate Republic of Guyana, the Prime Minister and the Attorney General; the latter on diverse occasions. The orders against the President the Prime Minister and the Attorney General were made without giving them an opportunity to be heard, the first time in history of Independent Guyana. Unable to trample upon them, he is attempting to demoralise them and make them timorous when dealing with a matter involving the state,” Minister Williams said.
The Opposition Leader, seemingly on a mission to spread inaccurate information and lies also claims, according to the INews Guyana article, that “And we have seen this President for one year delaying the recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) until he had his design rolled out.”
Minister Williams said that this is another attempt by Jagdeo to not only mislead the Guyanese public but to also embarrass the professionals associated since the JSC, which is an independent body and appointments to that body are determined by the Constitution of Guyana under Article 198. These are not done by selection by any official in the Government.
Further, Mr. Williams said that the President did not delay any appointment but followed the Article 111 of the Constitution, which enabled him to send back the recommendations to the JSC for reconsideration. In the case of the said recommendations, they were not triggered by any public advertisement of vacancies in the office of Judges and inviting applications for appointments thereto. Article 111 states, “In the exercise of his functions under this Constitution or any other law, the President shall act in accordance with his own deliberate judgement except in cases where, by this Constitution or by any other law, he is required to act in accordance with the advice or on the recommendation of any person or authority.”
Minister Williams said that the President has an obligation to the Guyanese citizens to ensure that the persons appointed to the Judiciary will serve to the best of the abilities.
“The President must have a higher and perpetual retainer in ensuring that the Judges he appoints are fit and proper and were selected and recommended after a transparent process. The President would be remiss in his duty to the Guyanese people if he were to robotically appoint Judges recommended by the JSC without first ascertaining the qualifications, suitability, experience, expertise, integrity and absence of nepotism among other considerations. Under this Government, the days of handpicking and secret overtures to fill vacancies in the office of Judges are over,” the Attorney General said.
Further, the Opposition Leader is quoted as saying that “citizens must not take lightly the words uttered by President Granger following the acting Chief Justice’s ruling, when he said that despite the mostly favourable judgment in relation to the issue, he would act in accordance with his perception.”
This statement is clearly geared at damaging the reputation of the President and the image of the Chief Justice. The Head of State, on several occasions, explained that his only interest is ensuring that the person appointed to the post of Chairman, meets the requirements as outlined in the Constitution of Guyana. This position, which has remained unchanged, is a matter of public record and as such, one can only deduce that this was a deliberate attempt by Mr. Jagdeo to create mischief.
Mr. Jagdeo is further quoted as saying, “We have heard the President (David Granger) say there is nothing wrong with the Attorney General threatening a judge in the court.”
The Ministry of the Presidency would like to clearly state that on the onset of the matter, the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs was asked by the President to provide an explanation. Speaking to members of the press after the swearing in of the Justices to the Appellate Court, which was held at State House on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, the President responded to questions on the matter, stating that the Attorney General was not cited by the Court for contempt and as such the explanation given was accepted since it was in accordance with the complaint received. At no time did the President say that the threatening of a judge by any person is acceptable in anyway. The Head of State continues to treat members of the Judiciary with dignity and respect for their role for the good of Guyana. If Mr. Jagdeo is quoted correctly, he is clearly not above outright lying in an attempt to damage the reputation of the Head of State.
Lastly, a section of the article states that “The Opposition Leader also drew the crowd’s attention to recent comments made by the Attorney General Basil Williams who allegedly said the Judges were put there by the Government and ought to rule in its favour.” The Attorney General said that this statement is patently false and is clearly designed to mislead the Guyanese people in an effort to disrupt the work of the Government, which has been making significant strides in a number of areas since its assumption to office.
The Ministry of the Presidency calls on the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who is quoted as making these spurious claims without providing any actual evidence or proof, to be honest in his public statements instead of spreading untruths to aid his campaign of division and stir incitement against the Government. More importantly, however, the Ministry of the Presidency calls on all media houses to pay attention to the tenets of their profession. It is also equally important that the Media take the responsibility to provide accurate information to the members of the public.