Pres. Granger’s granting of respite, timely – AG Williams
DPI, Guyana, Thursday, July 11, 2019
In a statement today, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Honourable Basil Williams SC., said His Excellency President David Granger’s Grant of Respite to Minister of Finance, the Honourable Winston Jordan was a timely intervention to prevent a serious miscarriage of justice. The president’s intervention saw him, exercising powers vested by Article 188 of the Constitution of Guyana.
“It constituted an absurdity, where a private person was erroneously ordered to pay the debt of the State,” the statement from the Attorney General Chambers said.
Background to the case
The matter of Dipcon Engineering Services Limited v Winston Jordan has its genesis in the matter of Dipcon Engineering Services Limited v The Attorney General No. 88 CD 2009. This matter was argued, under the former PPP administration and was never handed over to the Attorney General when the APNU-AFC government came into office in 2015.
The statement further explained that the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Honourable Basil Williams SC., became aware of the case by way of a judgment of Justice Rishi Persaud who ordered the State to pay in excess of $400M together with 4% interest per annum to Dipcon Engineering Services Limited. The time to appeal this judgment had long elapsed, and the Attorney General was forced to apply to the Court of Appeal for Leave to plea out of time. This motion was drafted and filed by Attorney-at-Law, Roysdale Forde, to whom the matter was outsourced in the High Court and the then Deputy Solicitor General, Prithma Kisson. However, the Court of Appeal refused to grant leave.
Consequently, the matter was appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) with the Solicitor General, Kim Kyte appearing and again Leave to Appeal was refused.
In 2018, Chief Justice, Roxane George issued a writ of mandamus, compelling the Honourable Minister of Finance to pay the sum previously ordered by Justice Rishi Persaud.
The writ of mandamus of the Chief Justice was subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal together with an application for a stay of execution of the order. The Application for a Stay of Execution of the order, made by the Chief Justice, was heard by Justice of Appeal, Dawn Gregory who denied it. The stay of execution, having been denied by a single judge; an application was filed by way of a motion to the full bench of the Court of Appeal to review the decision. However, notwithstanding that, the application was made in January of 2019, the Court of Appeal has been unable to constitute a panel to hear this matter, and as a result, the matter is pending.
In these circumstances, Attorney-at-Law, Timothy Jonas filed a Fixed Date Application against Winston Jordan privately/personally insinuating that he had committed criminal contempt of court. In the application, he concealed from the court, that an application for a stay of execution of the Chief Justice’s order is pending in the Court of Appeal since January.
The court erroneously accepted jurisdiction to hear the application, when they ought to have known, that the provisions of the State Liability and Proceedings Act, expressly state that no coercive order could be made against an officer of the State, which includes a minister, nor could it be made through the back channel against him personally. Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry refused to grant a stay of execution of her decision delivered on June 24, 2019. This prompted, an appeal to the Full Court of the High Court of the Supreme Court of the decision of Justice Priya Sewnarine Beharry and an application for a Stay of Execution was also made. It is this application for a Stay of Execution to the Full Court that was heard on Friday, July 5, 2019, and subsequently refused by Justices Simone Morris-Ramlall and Diane Insanally.
It is against this background, in the interest of time, and the impending court order to commit the Honourable Winston Jordan, the Minister of Finance, to prison for 21 days, that a motion was filed to the Court of Appeal seeking leave to appeal the refusal of the Stay of Execution by the Full Court. Further, it was quite apparent that the appeal to the full bench of the Court of Appeal would not have been heard before, Monday, July 8, 2019, so the President, His Excellency David Granger was consulted to intervene.
The Attorney General reiterated that the grant of respite is in effect until all appeals and remedies available to the Honourable Minister and the State have been exhausted.
Editor’s Note: A writ of mandamus is a court order issued by a judge at a petitioner’s request compelling someone to execute a duty he is legally obligated to complete. It can also be issued when the authority of a higher court is required to order a lower court or government agency to complete a duty to uphold the law. The writ of mandamus can be used to order a task to be completed, or in other cases, it may require an activity to be ceased.