Ministers to get legal advice before decision-making

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 June 2015, 12:33 by GxMedia

Attorney General Basil Williams.

Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams says Ministers and Junior Ministers will now be benefitting from legal advice before they make decisions.

This is to ensure that actions taken by these appointees do not contravene the constitution or any other legislation or established principle.

“I think they (Ministers who make up Cabinet) are now briefed, from the last Cabinet meeting,” Williams told reporters just before the first sitting of the 11th Parliament on Wednesday. He pointed out that the new government I still young and that they are still in the process of setting up such protocol.

In recent weeks there have been two instances where it is alleged that government ministers abused their powers. In the first instant, Police Commissioner, Seelall Persaud, acting on the instruction of Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, dismissed a police officer who was involved in the torturing of a 15-year-old boy several years ago. Ramjattan had instructed the firing of another police officer involved in the gruesome act but was informed that Police Service Commission (PSC), as opposed to the Commissioner, has to decide whether the police officer will be fired.

Ramjattan has been criticised for his action, as it is seen as inappropriate Executive interference in the operations of Guyana Police Force (GPF). Former AG, Anil Nandlall, has even called the sacking of the officer illegal.

Ramjattan, defending his decision, has said that the instructions were given in the name of justice, as it was determined in court that both men were culpable for the grave crime, although neither of them faced penalties. Asked if he considers Ramjattan’s actions legal, Williams told Demerara Waves Online News that he has not considered the legality of the matter as he has not been furnished with the details of the matter. He further said that Ramjattan has not sought his advice and that he has considered the legal questions as a result.  

Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Simona Broomes, is being accused of interfering in the work of the Public Service Commission in a way that violates the Constitution. 

Suspecting that efforts were being made to hand-pick persons to certain positions in the Public Service Broomes penned a letter to the Commission advising that “all interviews and meetings of the Commission are to cease forthwith until further notice as instructed by his Excellency.”

Attorney – at – Law, Euclin Gomes, who is being represented by Former AG, Anil Nandlall, will be moving to the High Court on June 17th for a declarations that the PSC, in accordance with Article 226 (1) of the Commission, “shall not be subjected to the direction or control of any other person or authority,” and that Broomes’ instruction to the Commission breaches Article 226 (1) and is therefore null, void and without effect.

Broomes though, has said that her letter did not amount to an instruction. “…If I was instructing I would have said you are not supposed to, you must not. Those words never came from me,” argues Broomes.

Asked if Broomes was ever briefed as to the limitations of her powers Williams said “Ms. Broomes is not a cabinet member so she would not have been briefed.” He further said that government intends to undertake another briefing session for government appointees, particularly junior ministers.

He added that the contracts of all ministers have been sent to his Chambers and that they will now have the benefit of his legal advice before decisions are made.