The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Thursday sought to again establish that there was a strict separation of powers between the Judicial and Executive arms of Government and neither should comment adversely on the function of the other.
The distinction was again drawn by AFC Leader Raphael Trotman, who was asked to comment on the attack by Attorney General Basil Williams on Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Carl Singh.
While Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has already distanced Government from the position Williams has taken against the soon-to-be retired Chancellor, the AFC on Thursday, not wanting to delve too deeply into the matter, maintained that the boundaries should be adhered to.
“As lawyers, we know that there is a strict separation of powers between the Judicial and Executive branches of Government. It should not be the function of either branch to comment adversely on the function of the other. As long as you know that the Executive ought not to be making mention of what is happening in the Judiciary,” Trotman told the media.
He said while the Executive may make general comments on things such as the virtues of establishing a family court, the singling out of individual judges or judgments was not something that the Executive ought to be doing.
Attorney General Williams came under fire from the Bar Association and Prime Minister Nagamootoo, among others, for unleashing an attack on Justice Singh following a ruling which dismissed a State-sponsored appeal against a High Court decision quashing a racial incitement charge against Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
Nagamootoo said Government did not support any such attacks on the Judiciary even if they were coming from its own officers.
The intimidation campaign was being waged by the State’s newspaper which attributed comments to the Attorney General expressing displeasure with rulings made by the acting Chancellor, stressing the point that the “sun is setting” on the Chancellor’s career with his pending retirement.
“In as much as any citizen, or the Government for that matter, may criticise decisions emanating from our courts which, after all, are not cloistered halls immune from public scrutiny, our Government does not encourage attacks on the Legislature and Judiciary. It is not Government’s policy or decision to besmirch the character of any judicial officer. Our Government would not condone attempts, however well-meaning or veiled, to impugn the integrity of judicial officers,” Prime Minister Nagamootoo had said at a public forum last week.
The Prime Minister further underscored the need to respect the various tenets of democracy, such as the separation of powers that guide the Executive in its relations with the Legislature and the Judiciary. To this end, he posited that the Administration has been leading the way in ensuring the independence of both the Legislature and the Judiciary by making them financially and administratively autonomous.
Nagamootoo’s statement comes in light of comments made by former Speaker Ralph Ramkarran last weekend, when he called out the Prime Minister, who has responsibility for the State media, for being silent on the matter, noting that the attacks on the Chancellor seemed to be a government policy.
But even after this, the PM, continued along that line, further insisting that the acting Chancellor needed to retire, as he should have already proceeded on pre-retirement leave in preparation for his official retirement date on January 30, 2017.
“I would expect that the Chancellor would also proceed on pre-retirement leave and then leave on his birthday (anniversary) as he had advised me that should be the position of Acting Chief Justice (Ian) Chang at the time,” Williams pointed out.
The apparent push for Justice Singh to retire by January month-end comes in light of the impending ruling on the appeal to the two-term presidential limit case set for February 15. The acting Chancellor is set to rule on the State’s appeal made against the decision by former acting Chief Justice Ian Chang that the presidential term limit was unconstitutional.
Many commentators, including the former Speaker of the National Assembly and former President Bharrat Jagdeo, believe that the Government was attempting to intimidate the members of the Judiciary and send a warning of what would happen if they made rulings undesirable to the APNU/AFC Administration.
The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) has not taken kindly to the actions of Attorney General Williams. According to former President and current committee member of the Bar Association, Teni Housty, the Government should remain conscious of the importance of maintaining the Judiciary’s independence and impartiality.
CLASHES WITH JUDICIARY
He noted that for the Executive to be clashing with the Judiciary over its decisions, instead of respecting its authority to make those decisions, jeopardised the concept of separation of powers. The Attorney called for an “independent and impartial judiciary, immune from effect and statements from any other branch of Government” to be maintained. He made it clear that attacks against the Judiciary, above which the Chancellor presides, should never happen.
Williams has also been berated for seeking to silence the work of Deputy Solicitor General Prithima Kissoon.