The High Court on Friday ruled against Attorney General, Basil Williams and said it has jurisdiction to hear a constitutional case about the revocation of a lease of Red House by the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Inc.
The decision was made in chambers by acting Chief Justice, Yonette Cummings-Edwards against Williams and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission.
“The court ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the matter, that the issue of non-disclosures which was alleged by the Attorney General is not a matter that goes to jurisdiction, that the question of presidential immunity is- while the president is immune from the curial process, the president’s acts are not immune- and in any event that does not go to jurisdiction. Those are matters which are going to be ventilated at the hearing of the matter,” lawyer for the Cheddi Jagan Research Centere, Anil Nandlall told reporters.
He said the matter comes up on April 12 and 21 for arguments to be heard on the substance of the affidavits after which the Attorney General is expected to file an answer within seven days. Nandlall may reply if necessary.
Nandlall, a former Attorney General, said the High Court ruled that the validity of the lease issued to the Centre cannot be questioned at this preliminary stage of the proceedings and that issue must be determined at the trial of the case and this issue cannot affect the jurisdiction of the Court
Attorney General Williams told reporters that the effect of the acting Chief Justice’s ruling is that President David Granger has been stripped of constitutionally enshrined immunity. “The court has ruled that it has jurisdiction. In effect it means that the president has no immunity at this time because you would recall that the only application before the Chief Justice is an application in which they averred that they verily believe that the president ordered revocation of the lease to Red House,” said Williams.
He said the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre ought not to have brought civil action against the President and the Land and Surveys Commission because any act by that entity is under the authority of the president. “if you move against the act of the Lands and Surveys, you are actually moving against the President through the backdoor,” the Attorney General said.
The Cheddi Jagan Research Centre is challenging President Granger’s revocation of its lease to the heritage building located on High Street, Kingston. Former President Donald Ramotar has said that while he was in office, he had authorised and sanctioned the lease of Red House to the centre.
Pending the hearing and outcome of the matter, the High Court has effectively froze government’s attempt to take control of the property from December 31, 2016 or touching or removing any artifact therein.
Police, armed with rifles, continue to be stationed inside the Red House compound. Except for some furniture and other items, the Centre has removed all of the works and other significant items about Cheddi Jagan, a former president and co-founder of the first mass-based political organisation, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).