The Attorney General’s Chambers & Ministry of Legal Affairs today issued a statement in relation to the Grant of Respite issued by President David Granger for Finance Minister Winston Jordan, calling the grant “a timely intervention”. The Respite meant that Minister Jordan would not be imprisoned for 21 days if he fails to honour a court judgment to pay US$2.2M to Dipcon Engineering by Monday, July 8, 2019. The Chambers also noted that AG Williams only became aware of Dipcon’s case by way of a 2015 order issued by Justice Rishi Persaud.
The full statement reads as follows:
ATTORNEY GENERAL BECAME AWARE OF DIPCON’S CASE BY WAY OF THE JUSTICE PERSAUD’S 2015 ORDER
In relation to President David Arthur Granger’s Grant of Respite, to Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, it was a timely intervention to prevent a serious miscarriage of justice and an abuse of the process of the Court. It constituted an absurdity, where a private person was erroneously ordered to pay the debt of the Government/State.
The matter of Dipcon Engineering Services Limited v Winston Jordan has its genesis in the matter of Dipcon Engineering Services Limited v The Attorney General No. 88 CD 2009 under the former administration: People’s Progressive Party Civic. This matter was argued, under that administration and was never handed over to the incumbent Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Basil Williams SC, MP at the time of change of administration in 2015.
Attorney General Williams, eventually became aware of this case by way of a judgment of Justice Rishi Persaud, ordering the State to pay in excess of $400 million dollars together with 4% interest per annum to Dipcon Engineering Services Ltd. The time for appealing this judgment had long elapsed and the Attorney General was forced to apply to the Court of Appeal for Leave to appeal out of time. The motion for leave to appeal out of time was drafted and filed by Attorney at Law, Roysdale Forde, to whom the matter was outsourced in the High Court and the then Deputy Solicitor General, Prithma Kisson. The Court of Appeal refused to grant leave.
Consequently, the matter was then appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice with the erstwhile Solicitor General, Kim Kyte appearing and again leave to appeal was refused.
In 2018, in the matter of Dipcon Engineering Services Limited v Attorney General of Guyana and Minister of Finance FDA 1942 of 2017, Chief Justice, Roxanne George- Wiltshire SC issued a writ of mandamus compelling the Minister of Finance to pay the sum previously ordered by Justice Rishi Persaud.
The writ of mandamus of Chief Justice, Roxanne George SC, was subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal together with an application for a stay of execution of the order. The Application for a Stay of Execution of the order made by the Chief Justice was heard by Justice of Appeal Dawn Gregory, who denied it. The stay of execution having been denied by a single judge, Justice of Appeal Dawn Gregory, an application was filed by way of motion to the full bench of the Court of Appeal to review the decision. However, notwithstanding that this application was made in January of 2019, the Court of Appeal has been unable to constitute a panel to hear this matter and as a result the matter is pending.
In these circumstances, Attorney at Law, Timothy Jonas filed a Fixed Date Application against Winston Jordan privately / personally insinuating that he had committed a criminal contempt of court. In the application he concealed from the Court that an application for a stay of execution of the Chief Justice’s order is pending in the Court of Appeal since January.
The court erroneously accepted jurisdiction to hear the application, when they ought to have known, that the provisions of the State Liability and Proceedings Act, expressly state that no coercive order could be made against an officer of the State which includes a minister nor could it be made through the back channel against him personally. Justice Priya Sewnarine- Beharry refused to grant a stay of execution of her decision delivered on 24th day of June, 2019.
This prompted, an appeal to the Full Court of the High Court of the Supreme Court of the decision of Justice Priya Sewnarine Beharry and an application for a stay of execution was also made.
It is this application for a stay of execution to the Full Court that was heard on Friday, July 5th, 2019 and subsequently refused by Justices Simone Morris- Ramlall and Diane Insanally.
It is against this background, in the interest of time, and the impending court order to commit Winston Jordan to prison for 21 days, should he fail to pay a debt of in excess of $ 400 million dollars against the State to Dipcon Engineering Services Ltd, that a motion was filed to the Court of Appeal seeking leave to appeal the refusal of the stay of execution by the Full Court. Further, it was quite apparent that the appeal to the full bench of the Court of Appeal would not have been heard before, Monday, July 8th, 2019, so the President was consulted to intervene. The President’s intervention saw him, exercising powers vested by article 188 (1) (b) of the constitution, ultimately ensuring that the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan was not imprisoned in his private capacity by issuing a Grant of Respite.
It is imperative, to reiterate that the grant of respite is in effect until all appeals and remedies available to Winston Jordan and the State have been exhausted.