June 25, 2017

AG’s presence at New York’s fundraiser attracts protest

A section of the protesters gathered

A visit by Attorney General Basil Williams, SC, and other officials of the coalition Government to New York to attend a fundraiser quickly turned ugly, as members of Guyana’s Diaspora turned up in their numbers to protest the AG’s presence.

The protest occurred on Saturday outside the Zen Lounge, a restaurant and night club in Richmond Hill, New York.

In footage seen by this newspaper, which was posted on social media, Williams could be seen approaching and exchanging words with the visibly upset protesters.

However, when the protesters shouted for Williams to “go home” and to “stop wasting taxpayers’ money” a chastened Williams retreated back to the lounge.

The Attorney General has faced criticisms from several corners, particularly after the now infamous case involving High Court Judge, Justice Franklin Holder, among others.

Justice Holder walked off the bench without adjourning a case. This happened after an exchange of words with Williams, who was present in the courtroom as the State’s representative.

The Judge, in a report complaining to the Judiciary, said he walked out of the courtroom without adjourning the matter because of Williams’ behaviour. He had also requested an apology, but Williams had on different occasions said there was no need for him to apologise and instead suggested that the Judge recuse himself.

The case had involved embattled Trade Unionist Carvil Duncan, who had moved to the courts to challenge the tribunal set up to determine if he should be removed from several constitutional posts in light of charges which were laid against him.

However, the High Court proceedings were left at a standstill because of the impasse between Holder and Williams. Justice Holder subsequently did recuse himself from the case, but accusations of interference in the Judiciary surfaced since the Judge’s recusal came days after Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo also requested that he does so.

Justice Holder had subsequently insisted that he made this decision in the interest of the administration of justice. The Judge, giving reasons for his recusal, had explained to the court that the matter became politicised, and accused Williams of “egregious and disrespectful” behaviour which was contemptuous.

Meanwhile, the Government has come under increased scrutiny for its expenditure on overseas trips, after it was revealed that President David Granger used a chartered plane to fly to The Bahamas on a State visit in March.

The President had arrived in The Bahamas on March 2, as part of a three-day State visit which has been dubbed an ‘economic mission’.

Transparency Institute of Guyana Incorporated (TIGI) had called for Government to disclose the costs of the trip. TIGI head, Dr Trevor Tomas, had stressed that if questions are raised about the spending of tax payer monies, the Government has a responsibility to respond to them.

TIGI has not been the only individuals calling for full disclosure. The parliamentary Opposition has also questioned the expenditure. And explanations from Government officials that the chartered plane was the most feasible option appear to not even scratch the surface, as the Opposition wanted specifics.