The absence of Attorney General Basil Williams or any other lawyer from his chambers yesterday stalled the hearing of the challenge mounted by his predecessor Anil Nandlall to the misconduct charges levelled against former Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and former head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington.
Because the state was without legal representation, acting Chief Justice Roxane George SC before whom the case is being heard announced during a brief in-chamber meeting that it would be adjourned to November 1st at 10.30am.
Yesterday had been set for Solicitor General Kim Kyte-Thomas to continue making legal submissions to the court on behalf of the state. She has, however, resigned from the post which she had held for nearly a year and a half.
Following an advertisement notifying of a vacancy for the post of Solicitor General in the Sunday Stabroek, Williams later that same evening confirmed the resignation and informed that she would be migrating.
Speaking to the press after the matter was called yesterday Nandlall said the attorney general did not play an active role in the matter and even though he was absent yesterday, he decided not to send any other attorney.
Noting that the state from the inception had always been represented by Kyte-Thomas and a team of lawyers from the AG’s chambers, Nandlall said it was quite sudden for Williams not to have shown up, but yet seek an adjournment on the basis of his absence.
Nandlall said Williams’ claim is that his absence “was due to Cabinet.”
Nandlall said that more than a month ago, yesterday’s date had been set for the case to continue and though lawyers on both sides were aware that Cabinet would also have been meeting yesterday, Williams nonetheless proffered that as an excuse for not attending court.
With the matter now adjourned to November 1st, however, the former attorney general expressed hope that either Williams or someone authorized by him will show up prepared to continue the state’s submissions.
While the attorney general was a no-show it is unclear why no other attorney from the chambers attended court.
Singh and Brassington, through Nandlall and attorney Ronald Burch-Smith, are challenging the validity of the charges of misconduct in public office, which stem from their actions while they served under the former PPP/C government.
They have been jointly arraigned on three charges of misconduct in public office over the sale of three tracts of government land on the East Coast of Demerara, between December, 2008 and May, 2011. In one instance, it is alleged that the property was sold below market value, while in the other two the deals went ahead without proper valuations of the land.
It is alleged that Singh and Brassington sold a tract of land, being 4.7 acres at Plantation Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, which was the property of Guyana, for the sum of $150 million to Scady Business Corporation, while knowing that the property was valued at $340 million by Rodrigues Architects Limited.
It is also alleged that by way of agreement of sale and purchase, they acted recklessly when they sold a tract of land, which was a portion of Plantation Liliendaal, Pattensen and Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara, being 103.88 acres, to National Hardware Guyana Limited for $598,659,398 (VAT exclusive), without having a valuation of the property from a competent valuation officer.
It was also alleged that they acted recklessly when they sold a 10-acre tract of land at Plantation Turkeyen, which was the property of Guyana, for the sum of $185,037,000 to Multicinemas Guyana Inc, without procuring a valuation of the said property from a competent valuation officer.
Nandlall’s contention is that his clients were at all times acting as a part of collective—Singh as a member of Cabinet and he and Brassington as members of a Board of Directors. “They were simply carrying out the decision of these two agencies,” he has stressed.
Singh and Brassington, following their arraignment for the charges before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan earlier this year, had moved to the High Court and were able to secure a stay of the Magistrate’s Court from further proceeding with the matters against them until the hearing and determination of their challenge to the validity of the charges levelled against them by the state.