AG, Nandlall battle over strides in legal sector
Attorney General Basil Williams and his predecessor, Anil Nandlall sparred over the advancements made in the legal sector with Williams talking up the coalition’s achievements while Nandlall reminded of the failures of the government.
Nandlall, who presented his speech ahead of the Attorney General, called out the administration for making little progress on constitutional reform even as he asserted that the government members need to learn constitutional compliance before they move forward with amending the constitution.
“What sense does it make to move to constitutional reform when you do not comply with the constitution in its current form? Not a week passes in this country and this Government or someone of its functionaries, including at the highest, does not violate the Constitution with impunity,” Nandlall pointed out, alluding to the most recent ruling of the Chief Justice (ag) of the unconstitutionality of State Minister Joseph Harmon’s instructions to the Police Service Commission (PSC).
Nandlall also questioned how the government intends to modernise the justice sector when they have significantly slashed the budgets requested by the Director of Public Prosecution and the Judiciary.
The Judiciary requested $2,753, 863 but it was reduced to $1, 874,730.
As a result, Nandlall lamented that the $140M new Magistrate’s Court at Golden Grove, East Bank Demerara may not be constructed. He contended too that the $92M extension of the Court of Appeal building in Kingston, Georgetown may be postponed and the $179M Magistrate Court for Kamarang, Region Seven may be put on hold.
“With the massive cuts, almost all of these projects would not even start…. So Mr. Minister how can you speak about a modernized justice system? How can you speak about reduction of backlogs? How can you speak about increased efficiency in the Judiciary, when you slashed its budgetary allocations by such gigantic proportions?” he questioned.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General in his presentation spoke about the progress made under the AML/CFT regime, in fighting corruption, and in the justice sector reform initiative.
On the issue of fighting corruption, Williams boasted that the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) is currently investigating cases of money laundering amounting to $900B.
“SOCU in relation to financial crimes has conduct of the investigations of offences deriving from forensic audits of Government Ministries Departments and Agencies under the last Administration, involving billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money,” he told the National Assembly.
The Attorney General also spoke highly of the consultation and sensitization seminars on the State Assets Recovery Act 2017, the Witness Protection Bill and the Protected Disclosures (Whistleblower) Bill.
Williams also disclosed that the government is working towards piloting a legal aid project to provide legal assistance to persons accused of minor non-violent offences in pretrial detention.