By Dr. Leslie Ramsammy

The Deputy Solicitor General has resigned citing harassment from the Attorney General. The outgoing Solicitor General has written a letter in the media informing us that the Attorney General refused her advice on the matter that caused him to publicly rebuke the Deputy Solicitor General. This is the latest assault on the judiciary. Assaults on the Judiciary have been persistent and increasingly threatening, as APNU+AFC seeks to transform the judiciary from an independent arm of government to a mindless and authoritarian sycophant.
These are ominous times for Guyana – freedom and democracy are at stake. Far from an exercise of hyperbole, I am fearful that authoritarianism is rapidly descending over our beautiful Guyana, AGAIN. APNU+AFC has not yet completed two years in office, but they have moved rapidly away from democratic norms of governance to dictatorship. As part of the rapid decline of Guyana’s democracy and APNU+AFC’s iron-fisted clamp down on democratic norms, APNU+AFC has targeted the judiciary, actively transforming the judiciary from an independent arm of governance to being sycophantic and a “creature” of the executive.

When APNU+AFC’s youth czar, the elderly Aubrey Norton, dared to cross Desmond Hoyte, who was the Leader of the Opposition at the time (about 1999), Hoyte dismissed him as Chairman of the PNC, pronouncing Norton was nothing but a “creature” appointed by the Leader. The present version of the PNC, APNU+AFC, appears still enamored of Hoyte’s guidance – all individuals and all statutory agencies and bodies are nothing but “CREATURES” of the executive. APNU+AFC expects a loyalty vow from the judiciary and that means always rule in favor of the government when the government is a party to any legal matter. In other instances, always rule as instructed, even in criminal matters.

The law according to APNU+AFC is what Basil Williams, as Granger’s man, says. APNU+AFC has governed with an expectation that the judiciary must act and behave, not as the law dictates, but in accordance with the whims and fancies of APNU+AFC. When the DPP insists on independence and filing charges based on the evidence and not instructions from the government, she was bypassed by appointments of special prosecutors who are linked to Joe Harmon and Bail Williams, family and friends.

When former Chief Justice Chang ruled that the Presidential Term Limit in the constitution is illegal he had to face the wrath of APNU+AFC. Similarly when Carl Singh as the Chancellor and Chair of the Appeals Court (three judges) read the Appeals Court ruling in a matter which the Attorney General appealed he was castigated for not knowing his place in the new dispensation. These instances are only the more prominent ones, but similar threats to make judges and the judicial system more malleable are everyday occurrences in Guyana.

Ms. Kissoon comes from a family which strongly supports the PNC. I am not aware of Ms. Kissoon’s political leanings, but she clearly is a professional who refuses to cower to brutal political recrimination. I doubt that the former Chief Justice is afraid of the likes of Basil Williams or APNU+AFC. He was a professional that ruled against the government when Bharat Jagdeo was President, when Donald Ramotar was President and now when Granger is President. He ruled against the government when the Attorney General were strong men like Charles Ramson, Doodnauth Singh and Anil Nandalall. Carl Singh has similarly ruled against government when the PPP was in charge and now when APNU+AFC is in charge. APNU+AFC has not only used the Attorney General, but used its Goebel, Raphael Trotman and the Chronicle to tell Carl Singh he better mind his manners. In the meantime, we are reliably informed they have already identified his successor, even though a successor can only be appointed with the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.

While there are others in the judiciary and in the statutory bodies that are part of the judicial system who will not be intimidated, APNU+AFC is determined to transform the judiciary to one that is a sycophant, one that will be loyal to the wishes of the government and not the law. In the coming months we will see an exodus as people are forced out and new ones enter. The new ones will have to pass a loyalty test. It is time for Guyanese to speak up. An independent judiciary is the bedrock of any democracy. When judges and judicial officers like the DPP and solicitor generals are asked to rock with the wind tyranny is in charge.