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Govt minister calls judges “PNC activists” amid condemnation

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 December 2021, 11:21 by Denis Chabrol

Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall continues to criticise Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings and Justice of Appeal Dawn Gregory after they ruled that the Guyana Court of Appeal could hear an appeal on the dismissal of an opposition election petition.

Mr. Dharamlall’s latest criticism of the Justices of Appeal was in reaction to opposition Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) parliamentarian Lenox Shuman’s welcoming of their decision that they could hear the appeal on a procedural point.

“Lenox Shuman speaks from both sides of his mouth. His rank opportunism and equivocation are palpable. You can’t be calling for the rule of law on the one hand and then commending two PNC activists on the bench for going against the law,” said the Local Government Minister. Earlier this week, in response to a call by the Guyana Bar Association for him to retract his remarks, he had edited his Facebook post to remove the words “biased” and his call for them to be “defrocked” from their positions.

Mr. Dharamlall’s latest characterisation of Justices Cummings and Gregory came even as the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) scolded him for his earlier “purposeful attack” which that organisation also called disrespectful and sexist.

That organisation on December  24 hoped that such “injudicious utterances” would not be made again and “that boundaries with respect to our judiciary, are truly honoured and not in the breach.” But even after the first retraction on December 22, the Local Government Minister again suggested that the judges were politically biased, calling them “PNC activists”.

Back in 2019,  the Chancellor and Justice of Appeal Gregory had ruled that that 34 instead of 33 seats are a majority of the 65 seats of the National Assembly that are required for the passage of a no-confidence motion.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall earlier this week also raised veiled concerns about the judges, noting that there was a pattern in their decisions  which have been overruled by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

GAWL, for its part, said that judges make their decisions based on their interpretation of the law and that members of the Executive should stay clear of criticising the judiciary. “law. It must also be remembered that the principle of separation of powers makes it imperative that the judiciary be regarded and allowed to be independent. Remarks such as those which are the subject matter of this statement, can therefore only be regarded in this context to have been deliberately uttered to diminish the judiciary and those particular judges, in the eyes of the public,” the association said.

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has called for Mr. Dharamlall to be sanctioned. “Until the government censors the minister and makes a definitive statement rejecting the letter and spirit of his call to action, WPA holds the government equally responsible for this act.”

The Attorney General has since said that government would appeal the majority decision that that Guyana Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear an appeal on the High Court’s decision to dismiss a petition on the basis that Representative of the List of candidates for A partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change, David Granger had submitted relevant court documents late for the filing of the petition.