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Law books: High Court’s GY$10m libel decision against Basil Williams basis for suing other accusers- AG Nandlall

Last Updated on Monday, 3 July 2023, 15:19 by Denis Chabrol

Mr. Anil Nandlall and Mr. Basil Williams

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall on Saturday said the High Court’s award of a GY$10 million libel judgement against his predecessor, Basil Williams, for claiming that he had stolen law books, now sets the groundwork for suing anyone who levels similar accusations.

“I hope that the public and in social media will desist from accusing me of unlawful conduct and stop writing about this lawbook issue because now I can easily sue them,” he said following last Friday’s decision by High Court Judge Priya Sewnarine-Beharry.

He said Mr Williams uttered the defamatory words at a news conference and at a public political event in Berbice, after he (Mr Nandlall) had publicly highlighted that the then AG had allegedly threatened Justice Franklyn Holder. Mr Williams had subsequently denied doing so

Mr Nandlall said although the criminal charge by the Guyana Police Force’s Special Organised Crime Unit had been dropped, he was determined to clear his name due to the adverse impact of such an accusation on him as a family and his profession as a lawyer.

If Mr Williams appeals the High Court decision, possibly right up to the Caribbean Court of Justice, Mr Nandlall hoped that he would be awarded more damages. I wish that Basil Williams would appeal that matter because I believe, honestly, that the judge should have granted more than $10 million,” he said. The court also awarded costs an interest to the additional amount of GY$1.6 million.

Attorney General Nandlall said he relied on testimony by then President Donald Ramotar and the Auditor General’s special audit report that had stated that there was no criminal conduct on his part. Mr Nandlall recalled that, in the presence of then Head of the Presidential Secretariat, he had secured the approval of the former Guyanese leader for the State to take over subscription to the Commonwealth Law Reports from 2011.

“The court upheld the transaction as a valid and proper one, Basil Williams could not advance any legal basis and legal reasoning to undermine the legality of the transaction,” he added.  “I am happy that the High Court, in its civil capacity, was able to assess the entire factual matrix presented, supported by the evidence,” he said.

Mr Nandlall said he had asked Mr Ramotar if the State would have continued his then 10-year long subscription as those books are an asset to an Attorney General.

The Attorney General said the State machinery had been used as a political weapon against him because he had publicly criticised Mr Williams’ and the then David Granger-led administration. “I was innocently charged with a criminal offence,” he said.

Mr Nandlall noted that Mr Williams and his lawyers had failed to prove any defence of justification, prompting Justice Beharry to take a dim view of the defendant in her judgement.

In the early stages of the case, police had gone to Mr Nandlall’s residence to seize the Commonwealth Law reports but he had prevented them from doing so. “I said ‘no’, its my property. I will not give it. I said that the system will vindicate me at some point in time. The law books are here,” he said.

In the office of the Special Organised Crime Unit, Mr Nandlall said he had called Lexis-Nexis, the publishers of the law reports, and ordered copies rather than opting to return those he had purchased during the then People’s Progressive Party Civic’s term in office.

Mr Nandlall said during the handover to Mr Williams after the PPPC lost power, he had explained the process and had collected the books and other personal belongings from the office.

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July 2023