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Opposition Leader, Finance Minister excluded from budget cut case; APNU unhappy

Leader of the Opposition David Granger

Chief Justice Ian Chang on Wednesday ruled that Opposition Leader David Granger and Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh should be excluded from last year’s budget cuts court case because they enjoyed immunity as parliamentarians.

However, Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman remains a party in the case.

Justice Chang also ruled that Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS) Dr. Roger Luncheon could not be examined by Granger’s team. Dr. Luncheon had submitted an affidavit detailing the likely effects of the cuts GUY$20.9B cuts and Attorney General Anil Nandlall last week applied to have him avoid cross examination on the grounds that it was unnecessary.

But the judge’s ruling has not found favour with Granger’s attorney and APNU executive Basil Williams who said they were “very disturbed” by it.

“The implication of that decision is you’re saying that Mr. Granger brings a motion against some member in the House or brings a motion in the House and the motion is won by the opposition and the government doesn’t like it and the government brings the matter to court, what that means is that Mr. Granger can’t come to the court and defend his motion.

He would have to depend on the AFC representative which is the Speaker to do that which is an anomalous situation. You have the majority opposition party being represented in fact by the AFC,” Williams said.

The lawyer pointed out that there were other cases brought before the court by Attorney General Anil Nandlall in which Granger was a named party and the matters were heard despite objections from the AFC’s Khemraj Ramjattan that MPs had immunity and could not be sued.

According to Williams, the government was trying to hide the HPS.

“Now when the trial is about to begin and when Dr. Roger Luncheon is to come up for cross examination the Attorney General seeks to hide him and say he would lead affidavit evidence. But the authorities are very clear on that, once you want to cross examine him there can’t be any affidavit evidence, just the witnesses must come.

So by pulling out Mr. Granger at this stage is really pre-empting Mr. Granger, the effect is that there’s nobody left to call for Dr. Luncheon to be cross-examined in the case,” Williams said.

He expressed no confidence in Trotman’s attorney and AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan going after Dr. Luncheon adding that there was no indication that he would.

“They don’t even want to have a trial, they just want to be able to come and say could we cut and the Chief Justice says no you can’t cut.”

Meanwhile, AG Nandlall in welcoming the ruling noted that there was an agreement during the day’s hearing for the compilation of an agreed “statement of facts” which was to form the basis to proceed with the case.

“As I said from the beginning cross examination in this matter is absolutely unnecessary as this is a matter that involves pure questions of law and the facts which led to the cutting of the budget by the opposition are not facts that are in dispute, they can be easily verified.”

According to Nandlall, the legal issue was a simple one.

“Does the opposition have a power to reduce the national estimates presented by the finance minister? That is the legal issue; having cross examination of Dr. Luncheon to elucidate I don’t know what is a complete waste of time.”

He added that the ruling would advance the case but accused the opposition of trying to drag the matter out.

The case will next be heard on July 5 when legal arguments are expected to begin.