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Cabinet approved out of court settlements based on Attorney General’s proposals—Harmon

Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall and current Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

It was the Cabinet Council of Ministers that approved the several billions in payments—stemming from court matters brought against the State—based on proposals submitted by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, a result of the mess left by his predecessor, Anil Nandlall.

This was confirmed by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon today, during a post Cabinet press engagement at the Ministry of the Presidency (MotP).

Minister Harmon was at the time responding to allegations leveled by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, who on Thursday charged that the several out of court settlements were in fact being used as a conduit to pay kickbacks.
According to Harmon, “These are matters which actually came to Cabinet and Cabinet gave its approval for the Attorney General to proceed with the actions which were taken.”

The Minister of State was adamant, “Mr. Jagdeo can say whatever he wants; the root cause of these problems started in the administration of the PPP (Peoples Progressive Party).” He said, “…Mr. Nandlall as the Attorney General failed miserably to prosecute these matters on behalf of the state, it all falls back into his lap.”

According to Minister Harmon, Attorney General Basil Williams wOULD be providing a full statement on the matter imminently and “then we would recognize the deep hole into which the PPP has put us in this country…we are doing our best to keep this country on a level keel but every day you are faced with some ignorance or some nonsense done by the previous administration that you have to deal with now.”

Asked about the determination of the quantum of the amounts that were paid in the out-of-court settlements since the judiciary decided on the amounts for those that it ruled, Minister Harmon responded saying, “first of all these are recommendations that are made by the Attorney General…whether it is out of court or in the court, whatever settlements are made that requires the state to pay over any resources it is dealt with at cabinet and full discussions takes place there and cabinet gives it guidance to the responsible Minister.”

He was adamant, however, that it was the ineptitude of the previous administration under then Attorney General Nandlall, which subjected the state to billions in liabilities. “They ineptly failed to provide levels of defense to these matters and which caused the courts to make determinations against the State,” he added.  He said “many, if not all of these matters were so badly handled that even at the level of appeal it could not be reversed.”

Speaking to the matters that had been determined by a court and for which settlements were paid, these, “were matters which were decided by the court and we felt that it was important to establish a regime of the rule of law which said that we respect the judgment of courts.”

According to the Minister of State, if “there was a final judgment, it made no sense you becoming a Bad John and say I am not doing this I am not doing that , it sets a standard by which other people will judge you…it will set a standard not only for us here in Guyana but for international agreements of which we are a party to.”