DPP Discontinues Privates Charges Filed by Opposition PPP Against Government Ministers

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Shalimar Ali Hack

Harmon Rejects Suggestions that the DPP Acted on a Political Instruction

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has discontinued private charges filed by opposition legislators against three Cabinet ministers.

This follows the DPP’s decision earlier in the week to discontinue charges filed last week by the PPP against two other ministers.

Attorney General Basil Williams said that DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack had discontinued the charges filed against Finance Minister Winston Jordan, Minister for Public Service Dr. Rupert Roopnarine and the Minister for Public Infrastructure David Patterson.

“We have received the orders from the DPP to the Magistrate informing the Magistrate that she (the DPP) has exercised her powers under Article 187 to discontinue the charges against the three eminent ministers,” Williams said.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on Monday discontinued the private criminal charges filed against Health Minister Volda Lawrence and Social Cohesion Minister, Dr. George Norton.

In the latest case, opposition legislator, Anil Nandlall had filed with the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court private criminal charges against the ministers in relation to the Durban Jubilee Park project and the alleged breach of the Procurement Act with the spending of over GUY$900 million on the project.

That particular charge is directed at the Finance Minister and the Minister of Public Infrastructure, while it is alleged that Roopnarine also violated the Procurement Act since he sat as a Director on the Board of the company that initially started the project that has been mired in controversy.

Anil Nandlall

The project was launched in 2015 to transform the swamp and bushy lands into a facility to host events related to Guyana’s 50th Independence celebrations.

The private charges followed an earlier decision by the DPP to discontinue charges against two other government ministers Volda Lawrence and Dr. George Norton last week.

“I think the DPP was clear that the charges hadn’t been filtered through any established state investigatory body, they had no evidence,” Williams noted.

The charges were filed against the two ministers in relation to a GUY$605 million drug purchase and the rental of the Sussex Street Pharmaceutical Bond.

Opposition legislator Juan Edghill and Vickram Bharrat swore to the charges before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

In the allegation filed in the court, Bharrat is contending that on June 1, 2016, in the capacity of Minister of Public Health, Dr. Norton “wilfully misconducted himself in a way which amounted to an abuse of public trust without reasonable excuse or justification,” when he authorised or caused the rental of a Sussex Street property from Linden Holdings Incorporated for the sum of GUY$12.5 million, exclusive of VAT per month.

For his part, Edghill is contending that the current Public Health Minister between January 16, 2017 and February 16, 2017 abused the public’s trust when she without any reasonable excuse or justification, authorised or caused the unapproved single sourcing and purchase of drugs and medical supplies for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) from Ansa McAl Trading Limited in excess of GUY$605.9 million.

The DPP in discontinuing the charges said that they concern a grave issue under the criminal law in relation to two serving Ministers and “in the interest of good governance in the State of Guyana such allegations ought first to have been reported to the Guyana Police Force for an investigation to be launched and the advice of the DPP sought”.

In a statement from its Freedom House headquarters, the PPP said that “The discontinuance by the (DPP) of the private criminal charges filed against Ministers, Volda Lawrence and George Norton, and her failure to do likewise, in relations to similar charges instituted against former Minister Dr. Ashni Singh and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL), Mr. Winston Brassington, is a clear demonstration that the DPP has buckled under pressure exerted by a Government that has caused criminal investigations to commence against her, in relation to a plot of land allocated to her, under the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Administration”.

Ali-Hack had been questioned last year by the Special Organised Crime Unit in relation to land she had been allocated under the PPP/C government at the so-called Pradoville 2 scheme. Charges against a number of persons are expected to be brought in this investigation.

The PPP charged earlier in the that the reasons given by the DPP for her latest action “is comical at best. The DPP expects the Guyanese citizens to believe that she is responsible for ‘good governance’ and that ‘good governance’ constitutes preventing the prosecution of $14M of taxpayers’ money being paid to rent a house monthly, in Albouystown to store drugs and the single-sourcing by a Minister of $605M of taxpayers’ dollars to purchase drugs, without any resort to the Procurement Act”.

The PPP described as nonsensical the other reason advanced by the DPP for her decision, that is, that a report must first be made to the Police for a probe to be done.

“The entire country knows that when Christopher Ram instituted private criminal charges against former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, no such prior report was made to the Police and the DPP refused to discontinue those charges. In short, the DPP is telling the ordinary Guyanese that they cannot exercise their right to file private criminal charges against a functionary of the state, without first asking the state to investigate the charges,” the PPP argued.

It said that a prudent DPP would have at least requested the evidence that is available to support the private criminal charges, before making a decision. The PPP charged that the DPP’s Chambers has compromised its independence and autonomy.

“There is no doubt that we are rapidly descending into an authoritarian police state, where independent constitutional bodies are being contaminated and pressured by this Government to relinquish their independence and constitutional responsibilities,” the PPP declared.

Minister of State, Harmon Joseph, in a statement last week said the PPP was seeking to distract the public from the malfeasance charges filed against former finance minister Ashni Singh and the former chief executive officer of the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington.

The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) laid the charge against the two former PPP officials arising out of the sale of three plots of state land. They are accused of illegally selling the land for more than GUY$900 million.

Meanwhile, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon has strongly rejected as “false and malicious” suggestions that the DPP acted on a political instruction from the Ministry of the Presidency when she took the decision on to discontinue the PPP instituted charges against Lawrence and Norton.

“I can say categorically that no senior personnel from the Ministry of the Presidency instructed the DPP,” he told reporters, saying the accusation was “all part of the PPP’s scheme.”

Joseph, in a statement last week said the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was seeking to distract the public from the malfeasance charges filed against former finance minister Ashni Singh and the former chief executive officer of the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington.

The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) laid the charge against the two former PPP officials arising out of the sale of three plots of state land. They are accused of illegally selling the land for more than GUY$900 million.

The case is due to be heard early next month. – CMC & STABROEK NEWS

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