…accuses them of trying to convert High Court judge from “victim to villain”
Less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo requested that High Court Justice Franklyn Holder recuse himself from the Carvil Duncan case, former Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall has described the move as a plot that in effect “undermines” the tenets of democracy.
In a letter to the judge, the Prime Minister asked him to remove himself from the case in light of the brewing tension with current AG Basil Williams over an incident at the last hearing back in March. But Nandlall, in a social media post on Sunday afternoon, pondered if he was now living in a “surreal world”, and even categorised the Prime Minister’s letter as a “scheme” formulated with the AG’s assistance to ensure that Williams does not apologise to the judge.
“This letter is nothing short of a most comical and clumsy conspiracy hatched between the AG and the Prime Minister to avoid the AG apologising to Justice Franklyn Holder. As a lawyer, he (the PM) should have never lent himself to such a sleazy and senseless scheme. Imagine, the PM is asking the judge to recuse himself from the case essentially because the judge did not cite and jail the AG for contempt… Only intellectual giants like Williams and Nagamootoo can conceive such a “sophisticated” plot,” the former Legal Affairs Minister said is his strongly worded online post.
It has further been claimed that the PM’s letter seeks to villainise the judge who, according to Nandlall, has been a victim of abuse. “It is that factual matrix which produces this bizarre letter which seeks to convert the judge, who is the victim of the abuse, into the villain! This can happen in no civilized country where there is rule of law and a system of democracy,” Nandlall expressed.
Nandlall has also highlighted that the principle of separation of powers may be under threat.
“These are two of the most senior functionaries of this Administration engaging in juvenile antics about a crucial state institution like the Judiciary…they now want to choose their own judge to hear their own case; [this is] a classic exhibition of authoritarianism. [It strikes] at the heart of the doctrine of separation of powers. Imagine if every litigant, on his own volition, decides to abuse the judge hearing his case and then claim the judge is biased…the Judiciary may not be able to sanction anyone for disrespecting its officers and processes in the future without being accused of hypocrisy and bias,” the former Attorney General pointed out.
Duncan has moved to the court to block the work of a presidential tribunal set up to determine whether he should be removed from his post as Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) in light of criminal charges proffered against him, one of which has since been dismissed at the Magistrate’s Court.
Justice Holder complained to acting Chancellor, Yonette Cummings-Edwards, that during the March 23rd hearing of that case, he abruptly walked out of the courtroom as a result of statements made by the Attorney General.
He quoted the AG as saying, “I could say what I want to say and however I want to say it, I have always been like that… The last magistrate who (told me what to do) was later found dead.”
Justice Holder said in his complaint that he felt disrespected by the Attorney General’s behaviour, and he has called for an apology to be given him in open court before proceeding further with the case.
However, the State’s chief legal advisor is holding out that he is not to be blamed for causing the High Court judge to walk out of the courtroom. He has also insisted that his comment was not a threat, even though Duncan’s defence lawyer, Anil Nandlall, has described it as such.
In a letter dated May 4, 2017 and addressed to the Attorney General, Prime Minister Nagamootoo raised concerns about having a fair trial in light of the incident. “…due to an alleged incident between yourself and Justice Franklyn Holder in his Honour’s court on March 23, 2017 in the above mentioned suit, and His Honour’s subsequent petition to the Honourable Chancellor against the Attorney General on the issue of the alleged incident, I am of the opinion that neither the State nor I will receive fair hearing in the matter…,” the Prime Minister had stated.
“Based on all the above mentioned grounds, I am of the opinion that I would be prejudiced in the suit because my attorney is barred from being heard in the matter. In view of the foregoing, therefore, I authorise you to request that the Honourable Mr Justice Holder recuse himself from further hearing the matter.”
A copy of the petition has been forwarded to both the Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice, as well as President David Granger. However, the Office of the Chancellor had revealed that despite calling on AG Williams to officially explain his conduct, he is yet to respond.
The continuation of the Carvil Duncan trial is scheduled for Monday May 8.