PRESS STATEMENT - Wednesday 1 June 2011



HIGH COURT ORDERS & DIRECTS EDGHILL, WILLEMS & DUNCAN TO STOP POSING AS ERC COMMISSIONERS OR MAKING ANY DECISION IN THE NAME OF THE ERC

The High Court today Wednesday 1st June 2011, issued an Injunction and a Conservatory Order Directing and Ordering JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants in an action filed by Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, M.P. from holding themselves out as Chairman and members of the Constitutional Commission known as the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) and/or from taking any decision, making any recommendation and/or issuing any direction in the name of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) until the hearing and determination of a Summons in this cause returnable for Monday the 6th day of June 2011.



THE WRIT & INDORSEMENTS

On May 23rd last, Mr. Corbin filed an action in the High Court naming the Attorney General, Bishop JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, Mr. L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and Mr. CARVIL DUNCAN as defendants. In the Indorsement to his Writ of Summons, Mr. Corbin claimed,

“……

(a) a declaration that the term of Office of JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants, as members of the Ethnic Relations Commission within the meaning of Article 212B (1) (a), expired in the month of August 2007 pursuant to Article 212B (4), of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana;

(b) a declaration that JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants, unlawfully holding themselves out as Chairman and members of an ethnic relations commission are not duly constituted members of the Ethnic Relations Commission,(ERC), within the meaning and provisions of Article 212B (1) (a) of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana;

(c) a declaration that JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants, by unlawfully holding themselves out as Chairman and members of the Ethnic Relations Commission and purporting to convene meetings of the ERC have acted unlawfully and in breach of the provisions of Article 212B (1) of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana;

(d) a declaration that any and all meetings convened by ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants in the name of the ERC after August 2007 and all decisions purportedly made by them purporting to be decisions of the Ethnic Relations Commission, are in breach of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect; and / or alternativel;

(e) a declaration that any and all meetings convened by the defendants after January 2009 in the name of the ERC lacked a quorum and all decisions purportedly made by JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants purporting to be decisions of the Ethnic Relations Commission were unlawfully taken, in breach of the provisions of Articles 212F (2) and Article 226 (5) of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, unconstitutional, ultra vires, null, void and of no legal effect;

(f) a declaration that JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants, unlawfully holding themselves out as members of the Ethnic Relations Commission, are not entitled to be paid any remuneration, allowances, and / or other monies from the State Treasury that are allocated by the Parliament for use by the Ethnic Relations Commission and /or money from any other source intended for the Ethnic Relations Commission;

(g) an Injunction Restraining JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants restraining each of them by their servants and agents from collecting any further remuneration, allowances, and / or other monies from the State Treasury that are allocated by the Parliament for use by the Ethnic Relations Commission, and /or, from spending any money from any source administered by the Ethnic Relations Commission;

(h) an Order directing the said JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN to refund to the State Treasury all money received by them since August 2007 while unlawfully holding themselves out as legitimate members of the Ethnic Relations Commission;

(i) an Injunction restraining JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants, from holding themselves out as Chairman and members of the Constitutional Commission known as the Ethnic Relations Commission and / or from taking any decision, making any recommendation and /or issuing any direction in the name of the Ethnic Relations Commission until the hearing and determination of this action; or, alternatively;

(j) a conservatory Order, restraining JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and CARVIL DUNCAN, the Second, Third and Fourth Named defendants, from unlawfully holding themselves out as Chairman and members of the constitutional Commission known as the Ethnic Relations Commission and / or from taking any decision, making any recommendation and /or issuing any direction in the name of the Ethnic Relations Commission until the hearing and determination of this action;

(k) such further or other Orders as this Honourable Court may deem just;

(l) costs.



TERM OF OFFICE ENDED IN 2007

In his Ex-Parte Application by way of Affidavit for the Injunction and Conservatory Order Mr. Corbin claims that the National Assembly of the Parliament has, since the end of the term of Office in 2007 of the First appointed Commissioners, not followed the procedures for the reconstitution of the ERC as required by Resolution 62 of 2000. Consequently, anyone holding themselves out to be a member of the ERC and purporting to carry on the functions of Commissioner of the Ethnic Relations Commission after 2nd May 2007 is without lawful Authority and in breach of the provisions of the Constitution of Guyana.



DECISIONS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

He also swore in his Affidavit that he was advised by his Attorney-at-Law, Mr. Rex Mc Kay, SC, and verily believed that any and all actions and/or decisions purportedly made by EDGHILL, WILLEMS & DUNCAN, holding themselves out to be members of the Ethnic Relations Commission and/or acting in the name of the Ethnic Relations Commission are in breach of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect.



NO POWER TO CHANGE CONSTITUTION

Mr. Corbin’s Affidavit also stated that he was also advised by his lawyers and verily believed that Article 212B (1) (a) provides no role for the President in the constitution of the ERC and that the National Assembly had no power to change the expressed provisions of the Constitution with respect to the appointment of the ERC. Consequently, any purported extension of the term of Office or reappointment of the ERC Commissioners other than by the procedures outlined by Article 212B (1) (a) of the Constitution is unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect.



NO QUORUM

More significantly, however, Mr. Corbin’s Affidavit revealed that Mr. JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, Commissioner, and Mr. L. JOHN P. WILLEMS and Mr. CARVIL DUNCAN, both substitute Commissioners, are the only remaining members of the First appointed Commission and that Articles 212F (2) and Article 226 (5) of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana provide that a quorum of the Ethnic Relations Commission shall consist of the Chairman and not less than four members. Consequently, even if the three gentlemen were duly appointed, which is not admitted, they could not constitute a quorum and proceed to purportedly make decisions, recommendations and take other action in the name of the duly appointed ERC. Any and all decisions purportedly made after August 2007 by them in the name of the Ethnic Relations Commission are, therefore, in breach of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect.



PUBLIC PERCEPTION

In a Supplementary Affidavit sworn on May 31st, Mr. Corbin also claimed that EDGHILL, WILLEMS and DUNCAN, unlawfully holding themselves out as Chairman and members of the Ethnic Relations Commission have been unlawfully investigating alleged breaches of the Law, including the Racial Hostility Act, by citizens and publicly pronouncing on their findings; reprimanding citizens who exercise their rights to free speech by accusing them of breaches of the law, while, in other cases, they remain silent on public pronouncements by other citizens thus creating the public perception that they are not an impartial Body and damaging the image of what the Constitution stipulated should be the role of the Ethnic Relations Commission.



INTERFERENCE IN ELECTIONS

The Affidavit also stated that EDGHILL, holding himself out as Chairman of the ERC held an Engagement with the Guyana Elections Commission seeking to play a role in the forthcoming General and Regional Elections in Guyana and this resulted in protest from his Party, the PNCR, to the GECOM about the unconstitutional ERC’s involvement in the 2011 Elections.



CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF CITIZENS

The Affidavit also stated that recently, the defendants publicly accused a social and political activist, Mr. Tacuma Ogunseye, of making statements which allegedly breached the laws of Guyana and they quickly moved to launch a public investigation when it is public knowledge that similar and more inflammatory statements made by other more prominent citizens have either been ignored or had a delayed response; that on the 10th day of May 2011, JUAN ANTHONY EDGHILL, wrote to the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting, ACB, alleging that the Licensee of CNS Channel 6 TV had contravened the conditions of its License by airing an “inflammatory” and “unsubstantiated” commentary and urging the ACB to carry out its “statutory responsibility with due care and a sense of responsibility”. However, Mr. Corbin stated that in the context of previous practices, this recent intervention has been perceived as another initiative to silence the freedom of expression of citizens in breach of their constitutional rights as guaranteed by Article 146 of the Constitution of Guyana.



He also averred that he was advised by his Attorneys-at-Law and verily believed that in the context of the Constitutional requirement that General and Regional Elections must be held on or before the end of November 2011, such activities by an unconstitutional body pose a serious threat to the freedom of expression and to the breach of the Fundamental rights of citizens.



TAX-PAYERS MONEY

Further, Mr. Corbin claimed that EDGHILL, WILLEMS and DUNCAN, were in the process of intensifying their activities around Guyana and unlawfully spending large amounts of taxpayers-money allocated by the National Assembly of the Parliament of Guyana for the Ethnic Relations Commission within the meaning of Article 212 B of the Constitution of Guyana.



PUBLIC MISCHIEF

Mr. Corbin swore that as late as Monday 30th May 2011, two of the defendants were disseminating gross misinformation on National Television, NCN, that has the widest Television coverage in Guyana and that this constitutes an act of public mischief. Consequently, the defendants, unlawfully holding themselves out as Chairman and members of the Ethnic Relations Commission, if not restrained, will continue to mislead the public and engage in further unlawful and unconstitutional activity.



FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS

Finally, the Affidavit stated that, with General and Regional Elections constitutionally due and the requirement that there be a free, fair and transparent elections, it would be in the public interest to restrain EDGHILL, WILLEMS and DUNCAN from unlawfully holding themselves out as Chairman and members of the Ethnic Relations Commission during the hearing and determination of this matter by the High Court.



THE JUDGE AND THE LAWYERS

Justice the Honourable Mr. James Bovell Drakes issued the Orders and set Monday 6th June 2011 for the Defendants to appear at the hearing of the Summons for the Injunction and Conservatory Orders made today to be continued until the final determination of the action filed by Mr. Robert Corbin, M.P. and Leader of the Opposition.



The Leader of the Opposition is represented by MR. REX MC KAY, Senior Counsel, MESSRS. FITZ PETERS and BASIL WILLIAMS, and MS. ABIOLA WONG INNISS, Attorneys-at-Law of the Chambers of McKay & Moore.





People’s National Congress Reform

Congress Place, Sophia

Georgetown, Guyana

Wednesday 1st June 2011