June 25, 2017

Carvil Duncan case against Tribunal continues at High Court

Suspended PSC Chairman,  Carvil Duncan

Suspended PSC Chairman,
Carvil Duncan

The Carvil Duncan legal challenge against the tribunal that was set up to determine if he could remain in several constitutional posts while charges were being prosecuted against him continued at the High Court.

The matter is being heard by Justice Franklin Holder. Duncan, who was suspended as Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), took the stand on Wednesday, when Attorney General Basil Williams, SC, grilled him for several hours about how mail was received at the PSC.

A “did he or didn’t he” aspect of the matter relating to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was the high point of the nearly three-hour court session. The Prime Minister had contended that he dispatched a letter to Duncan’s office informing him of the Executive’s decision to establish a tribunal to determine if he was fit to continue serving in his constitutional offices in light of several charges he was facing at the time.

Nagamootoo, who is expected to take the stand soon, had also disclosed that the letter, as required by the Constitution of Guyana, invited Duncan to show cause why the tribunal should not be set up. But when Duncan testified on Wednesday, he held out that he never received the correspondence.

In light of this, AG Williams spent hours attempting to ascertain information regarding the procedures of how mail was received, handled, categorised and distributed at the PSC and to its Chairman.

“Are you aware that mail that comes to the Chairman is categorised as urgent or confidential?” the AG asked Duncan in court.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo

Prime Minister
Moses Nagamootoo

“All mails addressed to the Chairman of the Public Services Commission are handed to the Secretary of the Chairman…by one of the office assistants,” Duncan responded, in one of multiple exchanges between the two men. Duncan revealed that mail “received downstairs” was not computerised.

At several intervals, Justice Holder had to intervene and clarify many of the statements that the witness disclosed in court. At one point, the AG angrily expressed that Anil Nandlall, who is representing Duncan, was “trying to prompt the witness”, and Nandlall repeatedly objected to the AG’s line of questioning, suggesting that the AG was asking the same questions in repetition.

After the matter was adjourned, Nandlall, the former Attorney General, remarked that much of Wednesday’s session was “wasted in trying to understand the mailing system at the Public Service Commission”. Speaking with members of the media, Nandlall pointed out that AG Williams should have asked questions relating to the letter that Duncan was said to have received.

Nandlall also disputed the materialness of the questions regarding the mailing procedures at the PSC.

“In my view, it’s totally irrelevant, because at the end of the day, even if the mail was received into the system at the PSC, the issue is that Carvil Duncan [didn’t] received the mail and the AG can’t seem to get that under cross-examination and [he] stayed away from that deliberately while confusing the whole issue with asking a whole set of irrelevant questions about where documents are stored,” the former Legal Affairs Minister told the media.

Justice Holder, in October 2016, suspended the work of the presidential tribunal following an injunction, which was filed by Nandlall.

Nandlall had argued that the tribunal was an unlawful and unconstitutional course of action since Duncan at the time was not found guilty of the charges. However, President David Granger had suspended Duncan from several constitutional posts, which included being a member of the Judicial Service Commission and the Police Service Commission.

Subsequently, city Magistrate Leron Daly dismissed one of the charges against Duncan. Duncan was facing a charge which stated that on March 31, 2015 at Georgetown, he stole G$984,900, property of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL).

Duncan still faces a conspiracy charge which stated that between May 7 and May 8, 2015, he conspired with then Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) of GPL, Aeshwar Deonarine to steal G$27,757,547, property of the power company. Duncan had also alleged that he was offered money by both the President and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon to vacate his offices, a claim which the Government had denied.

The High Court matter will continue next Thursday before Justice Holder at 09:30h. (Shemuel Fanfair)