Last Updated on Thursday, 18 May 2023, 14:34 by Denis Chabrol
The Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) on Thursday “strongly” condemned criticisms of Magistrate Leron Daly for dismissing a case of misconduct in public office against former Finance Minister Winston Jordan, sparked off by Attorney General Anil Nandlall’s statement that the ruling was contrary to an unchallenged High Court decision in an almost identical matter.
“GAWL takes this opportunity to remind members of the public that the members of the Judiciary should be allowed to independently perform their functions. Consequently, any disparaging remarks or attacks, whether personal or otherwise, may expose Judicial officers
and their offices to ridicule. Further, the statements which have been published and communicated through various media platforms, widen the scope of the attention of the negative comments,” the association said.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers has no word on whether the the Lower Court’s decision would be appealed and there was no time frame when that might be forthcoming, an official told Demerara Waves Online News on Thursday. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo s, however, said the decision would be appealed. “It seems as though the are two sets of criteria in which you judge people and that shouldn’t be,” he said.
Mr Jagdeo reiterated government’s position that as a result of the decision, Mr Jordan “walks free after vesting title of a State asset valued at over US $40 million to a private company for which the State received a mere US $100,000.
Mr Nandlall said that worse yet, that was done months after the Government of which he was part, had already lost the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections elections but remained in Government for five months thereafter.
The Attorney General, in a statement that he described as “genuine critical commentary” said Magistrate Daly erred by not taking account of then Chief Justice Roxane George’s decision that a government minister is a public officer for the purposes of the charge of misconduct in public office in a previous case against then Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh. Mr Nandlall noted that that ruling was handed down on November 18, 2020 and was never appealed. “It remains the law on this issue,” he said.
He added that based upon inquiries made, he was informed that the learned Magistrate received from the State written submissions supported by judicial authorities, including, a written ruling delivered by Chief Justice George. “Clearly, the learned Magistrate erred in law by refusing to follow the decision of the learned Chief Justice. Such an elementary egregious error has excited great public concern within a few hours and inevitably will shake the public confidence in the administration of justice. For to the public, it appears that they are different standards being applied to different persons by the administration of justice,” he said of the Magistrate.
Noting comments by the Attorney General regarding Magistrate Daly’s ruling, GAWL urged Guyanese to respect the judiciary and all other professionals who are functioning in then course of their duty to maintain the rule of law. “The GAWL urges all persons to be prudent and respectful to the judiciary and all other professionals who are functioning in the course of duty,” GAWL said.
Mr Nandlall’s comments were also reiterated on his weekly Facebook show “Issues In The News” as well as posts of his statement and the Chief Justice’s decision. There were numerous unflattering comments against the magistracy below those posts.
GAWL chided those who questioned publicly the Magistrate’s decision. The association said it “reiterates and unreservedly denounces these attacks and asks that persons cease from peddling, broadcasting, transmitting or in any way disseminating such information that may lower public confidence in Judicial officers and the Judiciary. While there is a right to free speech, these expressions must be within the parameters of the law and with regard to their contextual implications.
The Women Lawyers’ Association’s condemnation of the Attorney General came one day after Canada-based Guyanese lawyer Selwyn Pieters complained to the Registrar of the Court of Appeal and the High Court that members of the judiciary faced attacks by the Attorney General and were subjected to mobbing and cyberbullying.
“The Attorney General continued conduct on social media particularly his Facebook Page and Issues in the News Program illustrates in my view a failure to act with integrity and a failure to encourage public confidence in and respect for the administration of justice. His conduct has incited hostility against the Judiciary. It is his Facebook content and he is responsible from his utterances and the climate those utterances create. His conduct brings the administration of justice into disrepute, undermines the independence and impartiality of judicial officers and lowers the judiciary in the estimation of citizens whether in Guyana or the diaspora,” Mr Pieters said in his letter that he asked be transmitted to Chief Justice George.
Mr Pieters said if Mr Nandlall was aggrieved by decisions, he could file appeals.