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Lawyers slam Attorney General over criminal support remarks

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Associations representing Guyanese lawyers have taken strong objection to Attorney General, Anil Nandlall’s accusation that they are among several civil society and political organisations that are tacitly support for criminals.

At the centre of the controversy are his comments that suggested that Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, who is Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), might not violated legal ethics by his actions involving criminal matters. The Attorney General’s claim that silence by the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), Guyana  Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) and several other entities has triggered sharp reactions by the legal fraternity.

GBA called Nandlall’s utterance “reckless” and casting a dark shadow over his profession. “We hope that on sober reflection he will realise that in his attempt to brand us as proponents of criminal activity and conduct, he is bringing his profession and office into disrepute and contempt,” said the GBA President, Ronald Burch-Smith in a letter to the privately-owned Stabroek News.

The GBA and GAWL separately called on the Attorney General to take his concerns to the Legal Practitioners Committee, police or the courts. “If indeed, as the Honourable Attorney General asserts, Mr. Hughes is a criminal then a report should be made to the Police or to the Legal Practitioners Committee,” said GAWL in its statement.

Expressing disappointment that the leader of the Bar was not a “conspicuously apolitical figure” GAWL urged the Attorney General to “use his esteemed position to provide sound, mature leadership rather than being abusive and disrespectful to civil society organizations.

In an article titled “Recent upsurge in crime a consequence of rejection of Firearms Bill in the National Assembly – AG Nandlall” published in the Guyana Chronicle on September 16, Nandlall was reported to have said that several organisations in Guyana which profess to be championing human rights causes are in effect supporting criminals. The report said damning allegations were made against Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Mr. Nigel Hughes, he said, and those allegations ought to have elicited a response from those human rights organisations; but none was forthcoming from them, he lamented. The government-controlled newspaper reported that Nandlall cited such organisations as the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA); Amnesty International (AI); Transparency International (TI); Red Thread; Help and Shelter; the Guyana Bar Association (GBA); the Guyana Women Lawyers Association (GWLA); the Berbice Bar Association (BBA), and the Alliance For Change itself.

The GBA, in an effort to set the record straight, recalled that Mr Hughes’ actions at Buxton immediately after Mr Hamilton’s murder have been explained by him previously as an attempt to secure evidence.

“That explanation is entirely plausible. The inability of the police and/or the joint services to collect and secure relevant evidence from a crime scene is notorious. We see no reason to doubt Mr Hughes’ stated motives,” said the GBA. Hughes had retrieved video footage captured by surveillance cameras at the Buxton Gas Station not longer after Hamilton was shot dead.

On the issue of Jury Foreman, Vernon Griffith in the Lusignan massacre trial being banned for life because he failed to disclose that he had a client-lawyer relationship with Defence Lawyer, Hughes; the GBA said that may be a matter of professional discipline that falls outside the direct remit of the Bar. “Professional discipline amongst lawyers is the remit of the Legal Practitioners Committee, a tribunal with which Mr Nandlall is no doubt acquainted. If the Attorney-General wishes to press a case against Mr Hughes, that should be the forum he chooses.”