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The People’s National Congress Reform, the Alliance For Change and the Working People’s Alliance have all condemned Local Government Minister, Nigel Dharamlall for attacking the judiciary after the Court of Appeal ruled against his party.
Dharamlall in a facebook tirade on Tuesday referred to the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Dawn Gregory as biased after they ruled that the Appeal Court has jurisdiction to hear an election petition appeal. He has not apologized, although the post was removed.
In a statement the PNCR said it registers its strong objection to the divisive and discriminatory tactics of the PPP against the Guyanese professionals in general, and in this case, two distinguished Guyanese Judges of the nations’ Court of Appeal. “No sooner than the Guyana Court of Appeal rendered its verdict (2-1) in favour of it having jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the High Court in relation to elections Petition #99, the PPP, through its Ministers Nigel Dharamlall and Anil Nandlall, launched an unsavory attack on the two Guyanese judges that favoured the majority verdict. While the former veiled his attack, that of Minister Dharamlall was blunt and crude, reflecting in no uncertain terms, the discriminatory and contemptuous position of the PPP when it comes to Guyanese professionals holding offices of power in this country,” the party stated.
It added: “The People’s National Congress Reform makes no mistake in saying that what Messrs.’ Nandlall and Dharamlall espoused about the nation’s judiciary, much less its Chancellor, and a Senior Court of Appeal judge, is by no accident. It is deliberate and represents a deep philosophical position of the PPP. That Minister Nandlall, the Attorney General of Guyana, would attack the separation of powers principle the very bedrock of democracy that gives rise to our system of governance, is also no accident. Rather, it is part of a philosophy of dominance and control of all arms of the state.”
The PNCR also stated that it categorically rejects the calculated and deliberate attack on the nation’s judiciary, and more particularly, the nation’s Chancellor, and a Senior Judge of the Court of Appeal. The PPP is put on notice that it is striding down a dangerous path of national division and ethnic tension which will worsen the tenuous social fabric that now remains in our nation after the Coalition, of which the PNCR is a part, was cheated out of office.
The People’s National Congress Reform, therefore, puts the PPP on notice that it will not allow the judiciary, or any other arm of the state to be dominated, manipulated, and controlled by the PPP. The People’s National Congress Reform therefore calls on all Guyanese to rebuke the PPP in its attempt to divide our nation by race, class and power.
PPP wants to muzzle dissenters
Meanwhile, the Working People’s Alliance said that the call for the defrocking of the two justices is part of the government’s larger plan to muzzle all individuals and institutions that stand up against it. The WPA said it is incensed but not surprised, at Dharamlall’s strident call for the removal of two Court of Appeal Judges who ruled that the Appeal Court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal of the Chief Justice’s decision to throw out one of the elections petitions on a technicality. To begin with, the WPA rejects any characterisation of the minister’s call as free speech or as a frivolous tantrum from a misguided young man. “The minister’s statement must be seen in the wider context of PPP’s mode of governance and the political disrespect that it has spawned among its functionaries. WPA views this as nothing short of political thuggery in high places.”
According to the WPA, the minister’s utterances are part of the larger PPP plan to muzzle all individuals and institutions which disagree with the government. “The party views disagreements as hostility to the party and the executive branch of government. It is a dangerous development that threatens the very foundations of our plural society. Our country has walked this road before, and the PPP should not be permitted to drag us again into the muddy waters of dictatorial rule,” the WPA stated.
“We feel that Mr. Dharamlall’s call for “defrocking” the judges because they ruled against the PPP is a direct attack on the integrity of the court from a representative of another co-equal branch of government—a case of urging a revolt against a branch with which he disagrees. It comes in the wake of a similar attack on the Court of Appeal from two UWI academics with alleged links to the PPP. This is a direct and coordinated attempt to discredit a section of the Judiciary,” the WPA wrote.
The Bar Council of The Bar Association of Guyana also joined in condemning Dharamlall, saying that while Judges and their decisions are not immune from criticism, it is expected that those in leadership positions, particularly those who are part of the Executive and or exercising executive power, such as the Hon. Minister, ought to be responsible in their comments. “The Hon. Minister’s aforesaid comments are not befitting an office of the executive. In the premises, the said comments ought to be properly and immediately withdrawn,” the Council said.
Arrogance of Ali regime
For its part the AFC condemned in the harshest manner “the repugnant and blatantly racist position of a sitting minister in the Irfaan Ali led Administration.” The AFC says it sees the statement by Dharamlall as an attack against judges who exercise their independence and is a clear indication of the arrogance of the Ali government. “It becomes even more repugnant when the attack is directed at two black women judges. Dharamlall in his facebook post called for the esteemed judges, Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonnette Cummings Edwards and Appeal Court Judge Dawn Gregory to be ‘defrocked’ criticizing the judges decision that the Appeals Court has jurisdiction to hear in an elections petition related matter and called for their dismissal.”
The AFC said it has always upheld the doctrine of separation of powers and respect for the judiciary and judicial officers even when judgements passed are not in our favour. “The Party finds it abominable that a sitting minister of government believes that he can attack Judges of our Court especially our women Judges without fear of reprisal. Dharamlall’s statement is also viewed as an open attempt to intimidate Judges into ruling in the government’s favour. It threatens the independence of our Judiciary. The Alliance For Change demands a full and unequivocal apology be issued to Chancellor Cummings-Edwards and Justice Gregory and calls on the President, Attorney General, Guyana Bar Association, Women Lawyers Association, Human Rights Association and other leading civil society groups and individuals to condemn Minister Dharamlall for his statement,” the statement concluded.