Ashni Singh was not intoxicated – AG

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh was not intoxicated at the time of a vehicular accident on February 23rd and left the scene shortly after for medical attention at a city hospital, according to Attorney General Anil Nandlall.

The AG has interceded in the matter on behalf of Singh but questions remain over his conduct at the scene of the Campbellville accident.

While the AG’s statement yesterday, four days after the incident, said Singh was not intoxicated,

Dr. Ashni Singh
Dr. Ashni Singh

the two occupants of the car that Singh ran into said the minister appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. The minister did not appear to have sustained an injury and left the scene shortly after and before the police arrived. There was no opportunity then for him to be alcohol-tested. The two occupants of the vehicle that Singh hit said that he rendered no assistance to them and was more concerned with leaving the scene.

Possibly being under the influence and leaving the scene are two areas that could result in charges for Singh but there is no word from the police on whether these matters are being investigated.

The AG’s statement said that “At or about 21:00 hours on 23rd February, 2014 at the junction of Garnett and Delph Streets, Campbelville, Greater George-town, the Honourable Minister of Finance was involved in a vehicular collision with a motor car.

“The Minister was taken to a city hospital for medical attention shortly after the accident. An associate of the Minister facilitated the driver of the vehicle and the lone passenger to be taken to a city hospital for medical treatment.

“The matter was duly reported to the police and is being investigated.

“Without prejudice to the rights of all the parties to seek legal recourse, the Attorney General met with the driver, the owner of the vehicle and the passenger with a view of exploring the possibility of bringing the matter to an amicable end.

“Allegations that the Minister of Finance was intoxicated and failed to submit himself to a breathalyser test are rejected. Indeed, the Minister was not invited to take a breathalyser test by anyone and in fact, the occasion to do so did not present itself.

“It is hoped that this disclosure will bring to a swift end, the speculations and inaccuracies which are being peddled in the public domain in relation to and in connection with this matter.”

Traffic Chief, Hugh Denhert, told Stabroek News  yesterday that parties involved in road accidents have up to 24 hours to report to the police and with that time frame available administering breathalysers which would result in accurate reads are extremely difficult.

Denhert told Stabroek News that the way the law was set up was that  if a person was to leave the scene of an accident they could elude being subjected to a breathalyser test. He continued “when persons are involved in an accident and at the same time if the police have reason to suspect they are intoxicated they would administer the breathalyser.”

It was recently revealed that only three breathalysers countrywide are working.

Stabroek News asked what the likelihood of administering a breathalyser is if a person fled the scene of an accident to which Denhert simply stated, “If the person is not there no test can be done.”

He said that logically if some time has passed before the accident is reported a breathalyser would not give a sound read and any evidence of intoxication wouldn’t be available. He said that “we are police and we work within the confines of the law and this is the way the law is set up.”

According to the law, charges can only be applied if one of the parties involved in the car accident fails to render assistance or if there was a failure to report the accident.

Former Commissioner of Police and member of APNU, Winton Felix, attempted to raise queries in relation to the accident yesterday during the sitting of the National Assembly. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman however ruled that it was against the standing orders for members of parliament to ask about private matters.

Felix was proposing that Singh, as a member of parliament and a minister of government should be asked about the incident. Since Trotman was not aware of the line of questioning he was tempted to at first allow the question, however once it became clear that the question was aimed at Singh, PPP/C MP Gail Teixeira, stated that the line of question did not hold importance to the sitting of Parliament.

It was decided that the question was of a personal nature and was disallowed. Singh has refused to comment on the incident numerous times telling the media again yesterday that the Attorney General, would speak on his behalf. Having the attorney general represent Singh has been called out as unethical by critics.

Nandlall  had stated that that Singh “was driving a government vehicle, he was minister of finance when he was driving.”

Nandlall had continued “there is no division, a minister does not stop being a minister during the course of the day”. He told Stabroek News that there was no conflict of interest in his role as minister and counsel for Singh when this publication asked. Having the AG state that Singh was acting in his capacity as finance minister when the accident occurred contradicts the government’s stance  that Felix could not ask questions in relation to the accident as it was indeed not a private matter.

The driver and the passenger of the other vehicle are seeking over $6 million in damages, including in medical bill and vehicle replacement costs. They met with the AG on Tuesday without their own legal counsel present.

Businessman Brian Yong arrived on the scene  on Sunday approximately 30 minutes after and attempted to make a deal with the other driver and passenger. It was revealed on Wednesday that Yong had in fact paid the medical bills for the passenger of the other car involved in the accident.

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