AG denies attacking Chancellor, threatens media for reporting

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Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams in denying that he never attacked acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh, has threatened to “exercise his options” against media entities that fail to provide evidence of him “attacking” the Chancellor.

Attorney General Basil Williams, SC

At a press conference on Thursday morning, Williams told reporters that he will be giving media entities one week to provide statements in which he attacked the Chancellor and by extension, the Judiciary.

“I have all the relevant media and their claims of my attacks, and I am proposing that the relevant media who claimed that I attacked the Judiciary and the Chancellor – I gave them a week to attribute to me what were the statements that I made attacking the Judiciary and failing which I’ll exercise my options,” he posited.

Asked what those options he referred to are, Williams said “when I was in private practice the media is very familiar with my options…you can draw your conclusions, I said I will exercise my options.”

He went on to point out that persons believe that because of his position as Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, he has become weak and hamstrung in protecting his name.

“I’m not prepared for anyone to filch my good name. I’ve practiced 33 years as a lawyer and there is no report that I have tampered with a witness or a jury or any corrupt practices in my 33 years and I’m very proud of that,” he declared.

AG Williams had come under heavy criticism following an article published in the State-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper on January 19, 2017, attributing comments to him ridiculing a decision handed down by Justice Singh in the Appeal Court, dismissing a private criminal charge case against Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.

He also blasted his Deputy Solicitor General, Prithima Kissoon, whose concession to Jagdeo’s lawyer’s claim that the Attorney General was not a proper party to the proceeding caused the Chancellor to throw out the case against the Opposition Leader.

During Thursday’s press conference, Williams admitted to Guyana Times that he did in fact tell the Chronicle newspaper that, “the move by the Chancellor is not without remedy, we will take the case to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ); the case was dismissed on form and not substance… he hasn’t determined the substantive issue there.”

However, when this newspaper highlighted another paragraph in the said Guyana Chronicle article which attributed the AG saying, “The Attorney General believes the move by the Deputy Solicitor General and the Chancellor is a “vain attempt to free Jagdeo of those cases,” Williams immediately denied making this statement to the State-owned publication.

Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Carl Singh

“I don’t admit to that,” he immediately declared, refuting the quote attributed to him that sparked a widespread conversation on the boundaries between the Judiciary and the Executive arms of Government.

Furthermore, the Attorney General went on to single out Guyana Times as one of the media entities that he is putting on verbal notice before “exercising his options”, refusing to name the other media houses.

“I don’t have to disclose, they know themselves…(but) if its Guyana Times, you have a week (to attribute statements that he attacked the Chancellor and the Judiciary)… I have your papers in the stacks,” he pointed out.

On the other hand, the Attorney General rejected claims that he attacked the Chancellor, noting that he was merely informing the public about the nature of the case and the actions he would take.

“I don’t have to do or say anything about Mr Carl Singh… Is it an attack, by the way, if you notice that just before he leaves office, matters involving Jagdeo have accelerated over thousands that exist,” the AG asserted.

Moreover, Williams explained that with regards to the acting Chancellor’s retirement, the precedence was already set when Justice Singh informed him about the conditions on which former acting Chief Justice Ian Chang had to retire last year. The AG noted that the same conditions would be applied to the Chancellor.

Chancellor unmoved

However, Chancellor Singh has since posited that he intends to continue functioning in the post until his constitutional tenure expires at the end of this month. “Not when the Chronicle says I must leave. My constitutional tenure expires on the 23rd of February, 2017, and until such time, unless my appointment is revoked, I intend to exercise my functions as a Judge,” he remarked.

According to the Constitution, the Chancellor demits office at age 68, however that has no bearing on Justice Singh as he is acting Chancellor and not substantive Chancellor. Justice Singh will be turning 65 on February 23, 2017. Justice Singh has been acting Chancellor since 2005, after Justice Desiree Bernard demitted office; she served from 2001-2005.

Last week, Government Spokesperson, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, has stated that Government was aware of the Chancellor’s impending retirement and would hold discussions on same. (Guyana Times)

 

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