Amidst a flood of criticism over his recent attacks on Deputy Solicitor-General Prithima Kissoon, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams SC yesterday announced that she has been asked to go on 72 days of administrative leave to facilitate a probe into her handling of cases, particularly those involving members of the PPP.
Williams made the announcement at a press conference, where he also denied attacking Kissoon, who recently complained to the Public Service Commission (PSC) over the treatment she has received at his direction.
Williams yesterday said that he has asked the Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Department to find out what is the proper procedure for dealing with the matter. He said that the Permanent Secretary has already informed him that he has received communication from the PSC. “First the communication rejected the application by Ms Kissoon… to complain against the Attorney-General. I don’t think they entertained it,” he added.
A source told Stabroek News that the PSC has provided assurances that it will entertain and address the matter; however, Kissoon’s letter was returned to her so that she can submit the complaint using the proper steps.
Kissoon, in her letter, had sought guidance from the PSC on the way forward.
Williams has been accused of attacks on the judiciary since the publication of a report in the January 19th edition of the Guyana Chronicle, where he suggested, among other things, that Kissoon was responsible for the Court of Appeal throwing out an appeal brought by the state against a decision by the High Court in a case involving former president Bharrat Jagdeo. He implied that she was party to a conspiracy with Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh to “free” Jagdeo of existing cases.
Kissoon, in her letter of complaint to the PSC, said that the comments were malicious and libelous and she gave a detailed explanation as to why government lost that appeal.
Williams yesterday denied attacking Kissoon and explained that his comments in relation to her were in response to an attack aimed at him.
Williams told reporters that he was in Jamaica on official business when he became aware of an “attack on me” and he immediately responded.
“There is this practice of when I am abroad to release behind my back these libelous articles. So, I would say it is God himself who woke me up that morning and alerted me to it and I was able to respond and my thoughts were flowing so clearly,” he said, while noting that he was able to give a “dispassionate” account.
In a statement released by Director of Public Information Imran Khan, Williams said, “Our government can no longer continue to sustain the Deputy Solicitor General Ms. Prithima Kissoon’s unrelenting undermining of its cases. Having been employed by former Attorney General Mr. Anil Nandlall under the PPP/C regime, as Deputy Solicitor General, and paid over one million dollars ($1,000,000) and other benefits per month, Ms. Kissoon has been openly supportive of Mr. Nandlall and the PPP/C even when seated on government’s bench.
“In every case involving now Opposition Leader Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP/C’s surrogates, and where Mr. Nandlall is the opposing counsel, and Ms. Kissoon appears for the AG Chambers, glaring errors have been made by Ms. Kissoon.
“In cases where His Excellency The President, The Hon. Prime Minister and the Attorney General were sued, Ms. Kissoon deliberately disobeyed the instructions of the Attorney General and Solicitor General with regard to challenging the applications on lack of jurisdiction, thereby causing the matters to be protracted, effectively aiding Mr. Nandlall in saving face.”
Williams yesterday said that within three months of taking office he unearthed the issues but chose to exercise restraint with the hope that “people would change” but the situation got worse. “It just does not make sense,” he said, while adding that she was failing to assign lawyers from his Chambers to many cases and therefore when the matters were called in court, there were no representatives there.
He said that the Chambers cannot continue to “bleed” because of Kissoon’s unprofessional behaviour and slip ups. He said that the Chambers now has to check all the decisions that Kissoon was involved in.
Kissoon has denied Williams’ account of the reason for the Court of Appeal’s decision. In correspondence to the PSC, Kissoon accused the AG of failing to give instructions or examining documents prepared by her prior to being filed or presented to the court.
She added that Williams has since ensured that she is “prohibited and restrained from performing” her functions and contended that his “reprehensible, unbearable and malicious” actions were initiated and executed to force her out of office.
The Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO), the women’s arm of the PPP, yesterday said it was “appalled” at what it said was Williams attempt to “embarrass yet another professional woman.”
The WPO, in denouncing Williams’ treatment of Kissoon, said information in the public domain asserts that the Solicitor-General is on pre-retirement leave and Kissoon is the person next in line to take over from her.
“The question we wish to ask is whether there is someone else in the wings waiting to fill this vacancy and whether the stage is being set to bypass her. The Attorney General is not shy in going after professionals and he has given the signals from day one that he will do exactly as he please regardless of public opinion,” it said, while adding that if this is indeed so, it sends an ominous signal to the young and not so young professionals about their future under the APNU+AFC coalition government.
Jagdeo on Thursday condemned Williams for attacking Kissoon, while saying that persons should not be targeted based on their perceived political affiliation.
“I have been in the PPP a long time. This young lady is not a member of the People’s Progressive Party nor do I know her to be a supporter, at least openly, but even if she were or any other person that’s no reason for them to be hounded out of offices,” he said.
Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran has criticised Williams and the Guyana Chronicle for attacking the judiciary, while warning that the situation would get worse if there is silence by the either the judiciary, the bar or the public.
Following his comments, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who has ministerial oversight for the state-owned newspaper, distanced himself from the reportage and what he dubbed the perceived attacks.
Attorney Jailall Kissoon, in a letter published in Thursday’s edition of the Stabroek News, said that it was the first time in the legal history of the country that an Attorney General had publicly levelled “such a blast of terror and fear upon any Head of the Judiciary or his own legal officer.” “The fallout from this scurrilous blast has radiated its tremulous fear through the spinal cord of the entire body of the Judiciary in Guyana and elsewhere,” he added.