Attorney General Anil Nandlall has admitted to the long delay in the start of the operations of the Family Court, for which he said the administration of the judiciary is responsible.
Nandlall, responding to concerns raised by APNU’s Shadow Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams during the debate on the Recording of Court Proceedings Bill 2014 on Monday night, disclosed that the furniture is being installed at the facility, which is located in the compound of the High Court.
Williams asked when the court would be opened, while noting that the furnishings for the court have continually been cited as the reason for the delay. “We keep hearing about the Family Court…when are we going to have it?” he asked.
“I don’t know is what kind of furniture they are looking for, because millions of dollars every year we hear is coming in the budget for the furniture,” he added.
Williams also questioned what had become of the furniture used during the Commission of Inquiry into the July 18, 2012 unrest at Linden, which was held in the completed Family Court building.
“It has been a long time. I must concede that I am not responsible for the acquisition of the furniture but it is a matter for the judiciary,” Nandlall said, in response.
He added that he recently visited the premises. “They are in the process of installing the furniture. They are custom-made furniture.
You have unique things there that you would not see in a court in Guyana but we are getting there and it has been a long time. I agree,” he added.
In the midst of heckling from members of the opposition, he said that there would be an opening soon but that matter lies in the hands of the judicial administration.
Cabinet cleared the way for the Family Court in 2008 and subsequent budgetary allocations were made for the project. At the time of the announcement, it was stated that the court will come under the jurisdiction of the High Court and will deal with all family-related disputes.
In 2011, the Family Court was an issue of contention between Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand and the acting Chancellor Carl Singh. The minister had accused the Rules Committee of the High Court, which the Chancellor heads, of dragging its feet in the start-up of the court, months after construction of the court building was completed.
But Chancellor Singh denied the claims, while saying that even if the rules were to be approved, the court would not become functional.
He said the minister needs to deal with the start-up problems facing the proposed court. “I can sign a Practice Direction as I am authorised at law to do and bring the Family Court into being as a division of the High Court with the stroke of a pen, but this still will not bring the Family Court into being,” he had told this newspaper in an interview.
The Chancellor had said too that the rules were never formally transmitted to his office. However, the Rules Committee later sent over the rules for consideration.
Government has also said that it has funds available for the procurement of the furniture and equipment for the Family Court, but that it is awaiting approval of the rules by the Rules Committee of the High Court.