PPP urges Judiciary to not buckle under pressure amidst AG’s alleged threat to High court Judge

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Peoples’ Progressive Party’s Press Statement

The PPP is deeply concerned about the reckless utterances and their implications made by Attorney General Basil Williams in open court to the Honourable Mr. Justice Franklyn Holder at the hearing of legal proceedings filed by Mr. Carvil Duncan against the State. The PPP is cognizant of the fact that this is not an isolated incident but is part of a wider policy of the Government to denude independent constitutional agencies of their institutional and functional autonomy, to malign and assault the holders of these offices and to emasculate them, so that they act in a manner in which the government wishes them to act and not in accordance with their constitutional and lawful mandate.

In this regard, we have seen the Office of the Commissioner of Police and indeed the conventional Guyana Police Force, sidelined by the political directorate who chooses SOCU to carry out politically-driven investigations; we have witnessed the verbal assault by the Minister of Finance upon the Auditor General because of the latter’s criticism of the Minister’s misuse of the contingency and consolidated funds; the nation is aware of the infamous meeting of Mr. Carvil Duncan, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, a member of the Police Service Commission and a member of the Judicial Service Commission, at the Ministry of the Presidency where Mr. Duncan was offered “a package” to resign, with the President saying that he wants “no more blood on his carpet” and when Mr. Duncan refused, a tribunal was established to hound him out of office; the absolute disregard of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and the decision to hire special prosecutors who are friends and cronies of the administration and who are to be paid from monies from the budget of the Ministry of Legal Affairs; we can go on but we think the point has been made.

In our constitutional democracy and by virtue of the doctrine of separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary is sacrosanct and indispensable to the rule of law, democracy, and civil society itself. Over the last 22 months, we have witnessed incontrovertible evidence of attempts to undermine the independence of the judiciary. We are aware of the President’s unconstitutional refusal to act upon recommendations of the Judicial Service Commission to elevate two puisne judges to the Court of Appeal and the appointment of two judges to the High Court, although these recommendations were made since February 2016; the failure to swear in the two judges who have been appointed to act in the Office of Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary, respectively; the scurrilous attack of the former Chancellor of the Judiciary by the Attorney General in the State-owned newspaper; the Attorney General’s repeated public accusations that the Judiciary is ruling against the Executive and his consequent contention that by so doing, the Judiciary is encroaching upon the province of the Executive and the Legislature; the Attorney General’s repeated but irrelevant use of the name of the President during the hearing of cases, with the clear intention of intimidating the judges; and the Attorney General’s constant criticism of judges in and out of court and in the press when they rule against him.

It is against this backdrop, that the Attorney General’s ominous remarks to Justice Holder must be viewed. Although this incident was witnessed by over a dozen persons, including the judge himself and a reporter from the Chronicle Newspaper and while Williams admits to the words being said by him, he barefacedly and clumsily tries to change the context and inject more words, as he attempts to justify what is clearly unjustifiable.

The words uttered by Williams are as follows “I will speak how I want and say what I want anywhere I want…furthermore the last magistrate who did that to me was later found dead…I am saying that the last magistrate who did this to me was later found dead”.

We call upon the Guyana Police Force to immediately launch an investigation into this matter and this investigation must include the death of the magistrate to whom the statement refers.

In these trying circumstances, we urge the Judiciary to maintain their independence and not to buckle under pressure. We assure our judges and magistrates that we will continue to work fervently to ensure that they are able to perform the functions of their office with dignity and in an atmosphere free from intimidation and fear. We remind the Judiciary that they are perhaps the most significant pillar to prevent our country from sliding back to a state of authoritarianism and political dictatorship.

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