Attorney General Anil Nandlall says he is unaware of any settlement between the government and BM Soat which caused the latter to drop court action in relation to the tearing down of one of its fences at Success on the East Coast of Demerara.
In a statement yesterday, Nandlall was responding to a letter on Tuesday and a news item yesterday in Stabroek News in which counsel for BM Soat, Khemraj Ramjattan said that BM Soat had only withdrawn the matter because of a confidential settlement between it and the government but was not conceding that it had not owned the land that the Ministry of Public Works was claiming as public property.
Ramjattan in turn had been responding to a Ministry of Public Works release on Saturday which had said that BM Soat’s decision not to pursue the appeal was a vindication of its position that that the fence had been built on public property and it also warned of stern action against others in the same position. In response to this, Ramjattan charged that the Public Works Ministry was seeking to dissuade other members of the public from pursuing legal action against the government other property that is likely to be torn down to make way for East Coast road works.
Yesterday, Nandlall said this accusation by Ramjattan was “speculative in the least and reckless and wrong, at worst”.
He said “Certain statutory officers located within the Ministry of Public Works are endowed with statutory powers to demolish all or any buildings, erections, structures and encumbrances that are on Road Reserves, Govern-ment Reserves or on State lands. Those officers are advised to exercise those powers, whenever and wherever necessary. Of course, anyone aggrieved is free to approach the Court to seek legal redress.”
Nandlall also gave his version of the events leading up to BM Soat dropping the appeal against the government’s move to occupy the land that the fence was on.
Nandlall first noted that Ramjattan had stated that his client Bashir Mohammed of BM Soat had told him “The other side and myself worked out a settlement after days of negotiation. They want it confidential, I am happy with that, sir, please withdraw.”
The Attorney General said assuming, that Ramjattan and his client had such a conversation, he believes that Ramjattan’s client’s request for confidentiality would have ethically and legally prevented Ramjattan from disclosing same, publicly.
Nandlall added: “For the record, I am unaware of any `settlement’ or that there were any
`negotiations’ with anyone for and on behalf of the Government of Guyana and Mr. Ramjattan’s client. I know Mr. Ramjattan’s client, personally, as I was one of his Attorneys-at-Law when I was in private practise. Mr. Ramjattan’s client called me on, or about the 2nd day of January 2014, and informed me that he is no longer desirous of pursuing the case; that he will pull down his fence and reconstruct same in accordance with the boundaries, measurements and specifications put forward by the Government.
I informed him to so instruct his lawyer as early as is reasonably possible and to request his lawyer to file the requisite legal documents to formally withdraw the proceedings.
“On or about the 4th day of January, 2014, I contacted Mr. Ramjattan by phone and informed him of his client’s telephone conversation with me and drew to his attention the fact that I was not yet in receipt of any Notice of Withdrawal and Discontinuance which he may have filed. He informed me that he is unaware of his client’s intention to withdraw the proceedings.
I immediately made contact with Mr. Mohamed and informed him of the content of the conversation which I had with Mr. Ramjattan. Mr. Mohamed promised to make contact with Mr. Ramjattan immediately. Subsequently, Mr. Ramjattan informed me that he was instructed by his client to with draw the proceedings and that he will do so shortly. He eventually did so on the 7th of January 2014. As far as I am aware, the aforesaid is all that transpired between the Government of Guyana and Mr. Bashir Mohamed in respect of this matter.”
Nandlall also disputed Ramjattan’s account of what had transpired in court on December 27th, 2013 in relation to the issuing of a conservatory order by Justice BS Roy for the fence not to be removed.
Nandlall said he advanced the following arguments:
a) The Court had no jurisdiction to make the Order which was made and that
it was the first duty of any Court to satisfy itself that it has jurisdiction in any given cause or matter;
b) the contention of Mr. Ramjattan, that a party must first purge his
alleged contempt before being heard, is a position which has been departed from in many modern cases and is a rule that has extremely limited application and is not applicable to the case;
c) in any event, contempt proceedings must be properly filed and that
there must be a finding of contempt by a Court of competent jurisdiction properly moved for that purpose before the rule can be applied;
d) and that it would be impossible to establish contempt in this matter in
so far as the Order of Court was never personally served on either defendants and no Penal Notice was endorsed on the said Order, making same incapable of enforcement.
Nandlall said it was his view that those were contentions that are most elementary and could have been ruled upon immediately. However, he said that the Court ordered that an Affidavit be filed by him in relation to BM Soat’s allegations about contempt of the court order.
Ramjattan in giving his version of what had transpired in court on December 27th said said the Attorney General attempted to argue that the Judge had no jurisdiction to grant the conservatory order as he did on December 27, 2013. Ramjattan said that the judge made clear that even if his Order was defective it must be obeyed. Ramjattan said that the AG then argued that he was not served on time.
“This flew in the face of the annotation by a Court of Appeal staff member, Mr. Ronnell McKenzie, who had served on the said day at 1.40 pm on the Secretary of Chief Works Officer, and at 1.45 on a staff member at the Attorney General Chambers.
“It was at this point that the Justice of Appeal then ordered that the AG file an Affidavit in response to what was alleged against him and the Chief Works Officer, the alleged (contemnors) of his Court Order.
Additionally, he granted a gag order against anyone, including ministry officials and the press from carrying stories on this matter until further ordered.
And he continued the Conservatory Order amending it to the extent of adding that the AG and the ministry officials must not attempt to enter the said premises!”, Ramjattan stated.