The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has received the case file into Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh’s car accident on Republic night.
The DPP’s Office yesterday stated that the file is currently under review. There was no time set for when a decision would be made on whether to proceed with charges or not. There was no official comment from the DPP’s Office as to whether or not this case was one that should have been reviewed by the DPP, Shalimar Ali-Hack in the first place.
Observers have been awaiting the outcome of the police investigation since the accident over a month ago, with many stating that the police have lagged in their probe because it was a minister who was involved.
The police had stated that the DPP would need to pronounce on the matter due to “longstanding tradition.”
A contrast between this position and the outlook of the Trinidadian police was recently pointed out. Trinidad’s Top Cop stated that the ongoing domestic violence investigation of former Tourism Minister, Chandresh Sharma, would not require any consultation with the DPP in the Twin-Island Republic because “the matter involving Minister Chandresh Sharma is a straightforward and simple investigation. There is nothing in the law which requires you must consult the DPP to prosecute a minister or someone else.”
The Trinidadian parallel has caused many in Guyana to wonder why government ministers are allowed a special procedure by the police when their counterparts in the Twin-Island Republic are having cases fast-tracked due to their high profile nature.
On the night of the accident the other two persons involved reported to the police that Singh seemed under the influence of alcohol, however no breathalyser was ever administered.
Head of the Guyana Bar Association, Ronald Burch-Smith was critical of the police investigation, stating that the police were severely deficient in their investigation into the incident. He had told Stabroek News that while all persons have 24 hours to report an accident, the police had an obligation to contact the finance minister because he is a well-known public figure. He had also pointed out that weeks after the accident, police were yet to release any finding and that for weeks statements were still being collected.
Burch-Smith made the point that in similar instances it was not unusual to have the case brought before the magistrate’s court a few days after the incident. He had said that “the police are very good at deciding when they investigate,” and when they purposely move slowly.
On Republic night, Singh was involved in a car accident which left the driver of another car, Jageshwar Hira and his passenger, Parbattie Shivcharan, slightly injured. The attorney general represented Singh and released a statement saying that the finance minister was not intoxicated at the time of the accident and left the scene to seek medical attention.
“I was coming down this street [west on Garnett Street, Campbellville] and this vehicle was coming out of this road [Delph Avenue] and just jump the major road, slam into me sending we into that gutter… The man come out then we see is the finance minister but he ain’t even offer help. He just jump into another vehicle and drive off leaving we hay …,” Hira had told Stabroek News at the scene.
The AG in a statement on February 27, said that “At or about 21:00 hours on 23rd February, 2014 at the junction of Garnett and Delph Streets, Campbellville, Greater Georgetown, 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.”