AG rejects accusation of political interference during lawyer’s arrest

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Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, S.C., has denied allegations of political interference on his part after he advised the Guyana Police Force’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) last week to release a female attorney who was arrested.

Last Friday morning, Attorney-at-law Tamieka Clarke was arrested and placed in custody by ranks of SOCU for advising her client to exercise his constitutional right to remain silent in an ongoing investigation.

This followed a threat that the lawyer would be arrested if her client does not give a Statement on the matter SOCU is probing.

Hours after her arrest, Nandlall released a video statement in which he revealed that he was informed by the law firm Clarke was attached to, that she was detained. Consequently, the Attorney General said in his capacity as the constitutional legal advisor of the Police Force, he advised SOCU to immediately release the lawyer from custody, which was done.

Following his intervention, however, there have been criticisms from some quarters saying AG Nandlall’s actions constituted interference and improper political intrusion.

But during his weekly programme – Issues In The News – the Attorney General declared “I reject those accusations and insinuations unreservedly… I never instructed or directed any police.”

According to him, if he had not intervened when requested to then he would have been bashed and now even though, he intervened to get the lawyer released, he is still being criticised.

Nandlall also rubbished claims that he stopped a charge from being instituted by instructing the ranks.

He explained that as Attorney General, he is the legal representative of the Guyana Police Force as well as many other state organs under different legislations and the constitution. Part of his function, he noted, is to ensure that the constitution is being upheld and defend alleged violations of the law and constitution by these agencies; and if unsuccessful, then taxpayers’ dollars will have to be used to pay compensation.

“Part of my responsibility, therefore – professional and fiduciary and constitutional and legal – touch and concern the protection of the public purse against compensation being accorded… Having regard my role, must I stand idly by and allow, without intervention, these transgressions to take place and then have to be called upon to defend them when sometimes the damage is already done and the defense is indefensible, and also await for the public treasury to fund compensation emanating from these excesses,” the AG argued.

Reference the video statement he released on Friday, Nandlall contended that he used the word “advised” several times and at no point, did he mention ever giving any directions or instructions to SOCU.

As a matter of fact, the Attorney General outlined examples of “directions” that were given under the previous A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change administration on several occasions.

These, according to Nandlall, include the instance of when former Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud was sent on leave. He reminded that it was then Home Affairs Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, who wrote Persaud a letter informing him that then-President David Granger has directed him to go on pre-retirement leave.

“That is a direction and that, I believe, is unlawful and that constitutes interference,” the AG asserted.

He further mentioned former Minister of State, Joseph Harmon’s instruction, on behalf of President Granger, to the Police Service Commission in August 2017 to halt police promotions was an act of improper direction. Similarly, Nandlall added, former Social Protection Minister Simona Broomes’ direction to the Public Service Commission to suspend interviews to fill vacancies in the ministry in May 2015.

The Attorney General reminded that in both of these instances, the courts had delivered judgements in separate cases filed that the directions of both officials were unlawful and unconstitutional.

“[Those are] what constitutes unlawful direction, unlawful interference, and political interference – not what I did. And if I have to do it all over again, I will do it because I considered it as part of my duty,” AG Nandlall stressed.

Nevertheless, Attorney Clarke, who previously served in the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers as a State Counsel for several years, has indicated her intention to take legal actions against SOCU over her detention, which has been publicly condemned especially by the legal fraternity.

Both the Guyana Bar Association and the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) have issued calls for the Police Force to apologise to Clarke and also for an investigation to be launched into the incident.

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) had also denounced the actions of the SOCU ranks.

Meanwhile, the Guyana Police Force subsequently issued a statement saying that the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has since been instructed to launch an investigation into the matter.