“We’ve won more than we’ve lost”– AG rejects claims of bad performance
By Devina Samaroo
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams has rubbished claims that he has lost more cases than he has won. He posited that the cases which he is certain he will win have not come up as yet before the courts.
“I haven’t done any cases as Minister which Mr [Anil] Nandlall won and in fact all the cases, I am likely to win haven’t come up,” he stated during a press conference at his office on Monday, January 8, 2018.
Williams said Nandlall – the former Attorney General – has challenged a lot of issues which are still pending.
“For example, the Local Government Elections that were held … instead of filing an elections petition, he filed some other procedure so there is no way he could win it but it’s not coming up,” the Attorney General told reporters.
In further defending his performance, the Attorney General explained that there is a gamut of lawyers employed under his Chambers who will represent the State in various cases from time to time.
“The Heads don’t go and do every case,” Williams maintained.
He referred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and explained that the DPP will not represent every single case that comes before him/her.
Minister Williams alluded to the cases he would have won while serving as a private attorney before becoming the country’s Attorney General.
“I’ve won so many cases in the assizes, there’s no other person sitting in this country in this current generation could say that. But the DPP never came to the assizes and dealt with a case I was in…the point we’re making, these are big divisions and the heads don’t go do every case,” the AG stated.
When pressed for statistics on the number of cases he won since he became Attorney General, Williams could not give a clear answer.
“What do you say won, what do you say me. I just explained nowhere in the region does an Attorney General go to court every day or if they go to court at all,” the AG responded.
When, therefore, asked to detail how many cases the Chambers would have won since he became Attorney General, Williams said: “we’ve won more than we’ve lost.”
Since its assumption to office in May 2015, the Government represented by the AG has lost several cases at the level of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and in the local courts to large companies, private citizens, and Opposition members.
In its most recent ruling against the state—a $446M judgment in favour of Dipcon Engineering—the CCJ criticized the AG for failing to appeal the Supreme Court’s judgment within the prescribed period, noting that it was “unacceptable”.
The time taken to deal with matters of the State was an issue raised by Deputy Solicitor General, Prithima Kissoon, whose service was terminated by the Public Service Commission.
The State lost cases in relation to the repossession of core homes and farmlands which were brought by Nandlall. It also lost the case brought by Nandlall which questioned the constitutionality of President David Granger’s decision to instruct the Police Service Commission (PSC) to halt police promotions.
When previously asked to assess his Attorney General’s performance, President Granger said he would not blame Williams for the cases which the State has lost.
“I think that within that Ministry, there were some persons who were not doing necessarily the best for the government of Guyana,” Granger had said.
He also implied that the cases lost were the ones which his Government inherited.
“I do not feel that in the past we had the best representation on some of the cases which we inherited were lost before we started because some of the representation was inadequate and that is a great pity.”
According to Mr Granger, the Attorney General made several internal changes in his Ministry after taking up office “in order to get the best quality representation.”
Last year, Williams received a team of five advisors who have been tasked with assisting him in executing his duties.
The team included former Caribbean Court of Justice Judge, Duke Pollard; former High Court Judge, Justice James Patterson; former Justice of Appeal, Claudette Singh SC who is currently the Guyana Police Force’s Legal Advisor as well as Professor Harold Lutchman, former professor of the University of Guyana (UG) and Rudy James who still serves as a professor at UG.
Since his appointment as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice Patterson no longer serves as an advisor.
The Attorney General, when asked during his press conference, indicated that there are no immediate steps being taken to have Patterson replaced.