Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) would have to reconsider filing more private criminal charges against sitting ministers and is yet to decide if reports will be made to police in the two previous cases. During a press briefing held at his Church Street office, Jagdeo expressed his disappointment at the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to discontinue the two sets of charges that were filed last month.
Charges filed by attorney Anil Nandlall in the name of PPP Members of Parliament (MPs) against Finance Minister Winston Jordan, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, Public Service Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence and Minister of Social Cohesion Dr George Norton have all been discontinued.
The DPP discontinued the charges in keeping with Article 187 (1) of the Constitution. “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,” statements from the DPP’s Chambers had said in announcing the withdrawal of the charges.
Asked if the party had made a decision on whether it will go ahead with the filing of additional charges, Jagdeo yesterday said the party would have to reconsider them.
He, however, told reporters that he does not think it makes sense going to the police. “I am wondering if it would be even useful to take these charges to the police…because the way everything is politicised now, you are just not gonna get an investigation but we have to discuss this issue further,” he said.
He stressed that the discontinued charges are serious and deal with large sums of money being “corruptly given out …I would have thought that everyone in Guyana, including the DPP…would have wanted these charges …to go to court and see whether the courts would vindicate them or convict them.”
He pointed out that in 2015, when a private charge was filed against him, he did not have the good fortune of it being dismissed
Jagdeo also questioned what the DPP meant by “good governance” when the discontinuation of the charges was announced. “How could spending over $1 billion of taxpayers’ money, breaking all the rules, be a cause in support of good governance…? A breach of the tender board, the procurement regulation resulting in the award of a contact of $600 million through sole sourcing be in support of good governance…?” he questioned.
“I think it is just a lame set of excuses. It is unbelievable,” he added.
On April 24th, the DPP announced the discontinuation of the first set of charges involving Lawrence and Norton. Filed on behalf of PPP/C MPs Juan Edghill and Vickram Bharrat, the two ministers were charged with Misconduct in Public Office Contrary to Common Law.
The charge against Lawrence stems from the contentious procurement of over $600 million in drugs and medical supplies from Trinidadian company ANSA McAL, while the charge against Norton relates to the controversial rental of a property at Sussex Street for the storage of drugs and medical supplies while he was Public Health Minister.
The second set of charges, which involved Jordan, Patterson and Roopnaraine, were discontinued on April 26th. These charges were filed on behalf of Edghill, who contended that the trio committed Misconduct in Public Office, stemming from their roles in the expenditure of some $906,000,000 in public funds being allegedly paid over to private developer Homestretch Development Incorporated without any form of procurement process for D’Urban Park.
Government has asserted that the charges were filed in retaliation for the charges that were brought by the state against former PPP/C Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh and former Chief Executive Officer of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd Winston Brassington.
Singh and Brassington, who were charged in absentia with three counts of misconduct in public office over land deals under the Jagdeo administration, are expected to appear in court on May 7 when the case is called at the Georgetown Magis-trate’s Courts. Nandlall had requested that the DPP review the charges.