Former President Donald Ramotar yesterday accused government of being behind the Special Organised Crime Unit’s (SOCU) recent revelations that it was actively seeking former Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh and former NICIL Head, Winston Brassington in connection with the findings of a forensic audit.
Ramotar believes that the move is a political attack on “two of the most astute professionals” that served under him and feels that he is morally obligated to defend them.
“The announcement that SOCU is going after Messrs Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington is nothing short of a witch hunt orchestrated by the APNU+AFC regime. This regime is not content with dismissing professionals and persons who have made monumental contributions to this country, they are now trying to destroy their lives, attack and besmirch their good names and characters,” Ramotar told Stabroek News yesterday.
“Winston Brassington did not resign when the government changed. He wanted to hand over his work in a proper manner and he did. He stayed on and provided answers to all questions put to him and was ready to co-operate with any audit investigation that they wanted to undertake…He did not run out of this country as they want the public to believe. Like Brassington, Ashni never acted on his own. This is not a finance minister who went out and did what he wanted, no. Everything he did was with approval from Cabinet. Therefore to try to insinuate that he did anything wrong is deception on the part of the regime,” he added.
Serious efforts are being made by SOCU to question the two men in connection with the findings of a forensic audit into the management of government holding company, NICIL, and several files pertaining to this matter have been sent for legal advice, sources told this newspaper.
Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran, handed over his report to government about 18 months ago and there is growing concern that an investigation is being conducted without the key players being questioned.
Goolsarran, among other things, recommended criminal and/or disciplinary action against all those responsible for the interception of state revenues totaling $26.858 billion in violation of the Constitution. Goolsarran had said that several laws were broken.
The investigation itself is a complex one as arising out of the 18 issues under review; 86 investigations have to be completed.
‘Did not run’
The former NICIL Executive Director and Finance Minister, both of whom now reside abroad, are said to be vital to the investigation, as, based on the findings, they operated outside of their mandates and made decisions unlawfully. However, sources said investigators were not prepared to wait until they were found.
Persons with knowledge of this case told this newspaper that SOCU, through a network, is trying to get in touch with both men.
But Ramotar rubbished the claims that SOCU needs a network to find the men and said that to begin with they did no wrong and left the jurisdiction legally. He said Brassington left the country on annual vacation, approved by his superiors and it was events that followed that has seen him not return.
“Dr. Ashni Singh and Mr. Winston Brassington are two outstanding Guyanese whose contributions to the development of this country is great. Both these gentlemen have earned the respect of their staff and the international community for their outstanding work. Like I said, they did not run away. They did all required of them. Brassington applied for leave to go on holiday and the leave was approved. He did not run out of the country as the regime wants people to believe. Brassington stayed in his position for a while they are now saying that they want to get him. This is dangerous and an infringement on all of our rights,” Ramotar declared.
Ramotar added, “… the regime showed great hostility towards him (Brassington). In his absence, it became known that they had the army and other intelligence spying on him and his home. The unfortunate death of an army intelligence officer and his wife occurred when they thought they were following Brassignton’s daughter. Many questions remain unanswered. Why were they following her? ….No answers were ever provided.”
On Singh’s part, Ramotar said that trying to blame him for undertaking his designated duties was not only “blatantly wrong” but seems to be a move to discredit the “brilliant contributions” Singh made in advancing the country’s economic growth.
“In the case of Ashni Singh this can only be political revenge. Ashni was a brilliant finance minister. Without doubt he was one of the brightest
persons to have held that position. Ashni is a brilliant debater and while he served in the National Assembly he ripped to shreds every argument of the then opposition. He was able to expose them for their obstructionist position and anti-national positions that they often took. The then opposition parties now in government often threatened him and it descended into verbal abuse,” Ramotar charged.
“To go after Ashni in this way is just simply an act of vengeance and their intention to deal with those who expose their devious activities, put it simply this is political witch hunting at its best,” he added.
The former President is pleading with the populace to take note of actions against the two men because he believes it is a move by a government that is authoritarian and wants to instill fear in those who rise up against it.
He said, “It is not just about the two men this is something our whole country should sit up and take notice of. This is a method of authoritarianism that this government is applying in the administration of our country. It is leading back to the worst period of this country, 1964-1992, under the PNC regime. This act goes to the heart of our democracy. It is meant as a threat to those today that vent their voice against the regime that they would be punished.
“To remain quiet in the face of political vendettas is to give encouragement to what is taking place in our society. This situation will be worse as people become afraid to speak or come out to take action. Already, we notice the high police presence at meetings of the opposition. Especially we see members of Special Branch taking pictures of persons who attend our public meetings. We have argued over and over again there is a direct link between political democracy and socio economic development. Our experience has confirmed the correctness of this view. Therefore, I confidently predict that if these actions go unchallenged, not only will we lose political and civil rights but our economy will be affected negatively and social services will deteriorate. I wish therefore to call on all professional and democratic forces to make their voices heard. Stand up now and defend Dr. Ashni and Winston Brassington two distinguished Guyanese patriots, if we don’t tomorrow may be your turn”.
Ramotar said that he remains confident that whatever questions SOCU seeks from the two men there are “legitimate and rightful explanations”.
He said that he stands in their defence because “These guys worked with me and I know of their quality of works done.”