By Gerald V. Paul
Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall – accused by Kaieteur News publisher Glenn Lall of expressing plans to kill him – “should resign or be removed over the statements he made in a conversation with Kaieteur News senior reporter Leonard Gildarie,” the Guyana Bar Association and the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers said in a joint press release.
Christopher Ram of the bar association, who called for “good character and judgment”, was among those who attached their names to the joint statement. He said, “As a leader of the bar, the attorney general, mindful of the honour, dignity and integrity of his office, should resign immediately.
“If he does not resign he should be removed.”
But James Bond, a lawyer and MP in the Parliamentary Opposition, posted on his Facebook page: “My letter to Glen Lall … Glen, you have a responsibility as a citizen not to violate the rights as a citizen, not to violate the rights and privacies of other citizens. By spying on your own people you have endangered their sources and you have betrayed their sources and you have betrayed the confidence of your staff.
“No one is going to feel comfortable speaking to any member of your staff. You have crossed the line and you are wrong.”
This was a reference to UN stipulations included in international law and Guyana’s treaty obligations, which address privacy as a human right. UN policies include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN General Assembly’s December 2013 resolution The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age.
Bond who still bears the scars of being hit in the back several times by police rubber bullets, continued:
“Case in point, yesterday’s article in which your paper stood as judge, jury and executioner. Do not let this vendetta destroy you as a human being. What Anil said and what the PPP (People’s Progressive Party) is doing to you is wrong but two wrongs do not make a right. I know you can do better, Glen, so do better.”
The joint statement by the bar association and the women lawyers said that any result other than resignation or dismissal for Nandlall would be an endorsement of the attorney general’s conduct and an admission by the executive that the highest moral and legal standards are not applicable to the state.
Bond penned his comments as questions are being asked on how Lall came into possession of the recording and if Gildarie gave him the recording.
It is unclear under what circumstances the telephone conversation was recorded, if it was recorded by Gildarie or if it was a result of wiretapping, which would be illegal.
The statement by the bar association and the women lawyers says the case is troubling because:
• “Nandlall’s apparent acknowledging that the use of deadly violence against the media was acceptable.”
• “Equally troubling was the suggestion that President Donald Ramotar was said to have participated in conversations with a defendant (Bhena Lall) in an ongoing criminal matter in return for less critical reporting by her co-defendant Kaieteur News owner Glenn Lall. (Lall, his wife Bhena and another couple are before the courts facing charges of tax evasion to the tune of some G$100 million.”
• “Also disturbing was the objectification in the conversation of an unidentified female reporter by Nandlall.”
• “We are most concerned that the attorney general appeared to be acknowledging that the use of deadly violence against the media was an acceptable reaction to frustration where public officials and other citizens are offended by what is reported about them.”
• “He also referred to making restitution of funds used by him for some purpose which he did not want the press to report about. The president of Guyana is said to have participated in conversations with a defendant in extant criminal prosecution to have same discontinued in return for less critical reporting by her co-defendant.”
• “Equally disturbing is his persistent objectification of the unidentified woman, which conduct flies in the face of the government’s obligations and commitments regarding respect for women.”
Nandlall posted on Facebook that “I maintain that the conversation that is causing much furor was a private conversation between me and an acquaintance for many years standing, which was illegally recorded, manipulated, distorted and taken out of context to reflect a different dialogue.
“The matter is in the court and I wish to leave it there. I have filed legal proceedings in respect of the matter. I will say nothing more at this stage,” Nandlall told the media.
The lawyers’ joint statement noted “in the recording the honourable attorney general offered in vulgar and obscene language knowledge of actual and planned illegal activities. Even in private conversation the comments are deeply troubling and inappropriate and their candid nature, unbridled by the conventions of public discourse, calls his character and professionalism into question.”
PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee told a press conference, “There is a police investigation and I think certain matters are also before the Guyana Police Force which will conduct independent investigations.”