AG says com­ments on Bar mem­bers re­late to those who have not no­ti­fied him of State cases

Stabroek News Sunday - - BUSINESS PAGE -

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Basil Wil­liams SC yes­ter­day de­nied that he had at­tacked mem­bers of the Bar and says recent re­marks he made per­tained only to the fail­ure of per­sons who have been en­trusted with le­gal cases on be­half of the state to ad­vise him of this.

Since en­ter­ing of­fice in 2015, Wil­liams has on sev­eral oc­ca­sions lamented not be­ing aware of cases be­ing pros­e­cuted by pri­vate lawyers and which have in some cases led to large awards against the state.

On May 23rd, the Bar Coun­cil of the Guyana Bar As­so­ci­a­tion said in a re­lease that com­ments made by Wil­liams that pri­vate lawyers who fail to hand over cases in­volv­ing the state should be charged, were out of place and un­nec­es­sary.

“The Bar Coun­cil ….views the com­ments made by the At­tor­ney Gen­eral as an en­tirely un­war­ranted attack on the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and the in­de­pen­dence of the mem­bers of the le­gal pro­fes­sion, un­be­com­ing of a mem­ber of the In­ner Bar”, the As­so­ci­a­tion said in re­ac­tion to the con­tents of an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the Kai­eteur News on May 18, 2018.

The As­so­ci­a­tion said that it was very much con­cerned about the com­ments at­trib­uted to the At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Min­is­ter of Le­gal Af­fairs.

“The At­tor­ney Gen­eral, in re­fer­ring to the con­duct of lit­i­ga­tion by lawyers in pri­vate prac­tice for the State, is re­ported to have said that crim­i­nal ac­tion needs to be taken against lawyers con­duct­ing such lit­i­ga­tion and that he `be­lieves that [lawyers] need to start be­ing charged now’. These state­ments of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral, in ad­di­tion to ig­nor­ing the fact that it is the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions, a con­sti­tu­tional of­fice-holder, whose duty it is to de­ter­mine when and un­der what cir­cum­stances per­sons should face crim­i­nal charges, may give the in­cor­rect im­pres­sion to the pub­lic that there is some­thing wrong, sin­is­ter or un­law­ful with lawyers in pri­vate prac­tice con­duct­ing lit­i­ga­tion for the State”, the Bar As­so­ci­a­tion re­lease said.

In his re­sponse yes­ter­day, Wil­liams said that the Bar As­so­ci­a­tion’s re­mit is to up­hold the rule of Law in Guyana and “must there­fore be like Cae­sar’s wife­above sus­pi­cion. It must not con­done or ap­pear to con­done be­hav­iour that in­jures the State or in­deed the ci­ti­zens of this coun­try. There can be no dif­fer­ence be­tween con­ceal­ing law books and con­ceal­ing files”.

He de­nied that he had at­tacked mem­bers of the Bar but said that as the gov­ern­ment’s prin­ci­pal le­gal ad­vi­sor he has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to the Pres­i­dent, the Gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of Guyana, to give the best le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion pos­si­ble. How­ever, he said that le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the high­est stan­dard can­not be pos­si­ble when cases out­sourced to pri­vate At­tor­neys by the for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the last ad­min­is­tra­tion, are “kept in the bo­som of those At­tor­neys un­known to the new At­tor­ney Gen­eral”.

He said that the is­sue was not the out­sourc­ing of cases but the fail­ure to in­form his Cham­bers in a timely man­ner of out­sourced cases in the pos­ses­sion of At­tor­neys. He said that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Cham­bers un­der the last ad­min­is­tra­tion out­sourced sev­eral cases to pri­vate At­tor­neys and that those At­tor­neys re­fused to hand over the cases and the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Cham­bers only be­came aware of those cases after judg­ment was passed in large amounts. He cited the Dip­con case (2016), where a $400 mil­lion judg­ment was is­sued against the Gov­ern­ment and which he said was only told to him three months after judg­ment was passed. Wil­liams had been ac­cused of not act­ing swiftly on this mat­ter when he be­came aware of it.

The state­ment yes­ter­day from Wil­liams said “Any pru­dent lawyer would, upon a change of Gov­ern­ment, see it fit to com­mu­ni­cate to the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Cham­bers if they are in pos­ses­sion of any Gov­ern­ment mat­ter out­sourced to them by for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Anil Nand­lall. It is sim­ply a mat­ter of hon­esty and cour­tesy, after all it should be up to the new At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Min­is­ter of Le­gal Af­fairs to de­ter­mine if he wishes them to con­tinue be­ing Coun­sel on the mat­ter…

“The fact that At­tor­neys (chose) to re­tain pos­ses­sion of mat­ters even after the At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Min­is­ter of Le­gal Af­fairs wrote let­ters and made a pub­lic an­nounce­ment that they must re­lin­quish those mat­ters, demon­strates an in­ten­tion to in­jure the State”, Wil­liams charged. He said that let­ters were writ­ten after the Dip­con case to the fol­low­ing per­sons on 1st March 2016 re­quest­ing that if they were re­tained to rep­re­sent the At­tor­ney Gen­eral in any mat­ter to pro­vide the Cham­bers with a list of mat­ters and copies of the files* Roys­dale Forde * Ash­ton Chase, SC * Bernard De San­tos, SC * Manoj Narayan * Neil Bos­ton, SC * Ralph Ramkar­ran, SC * Robin Stoby, SC * Sase Gun­raj * Nigel Hughes He said that to date only Ramkar­ran, Hughes and Bos­ton have re­sponded to the let­ter. Wil­liams added that none of the above­men­tioned lawyers re­sponded that they had the Toolsie Per­saud Lim­ited (TPL) -v-AG, where the Court awarded a judg­ment of $1.7 bil­lion dol­lars against the State. The AG was not listed as a party to the TPL pro­ceed­ings. The gov­ern­ment was rep­re­sented by Chase.

Basil Wil­liams

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