Denying any wrongdoings while they were in office, former Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington yesterday charged that they were victims of political victimisation.
“We did no wrong. The evidence speaks for itself. In time, I believe that we will be vindicated,” was all Brassington told reporters, from the floor of the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, following his release from the court lock-ups yesterday after hearing misconduct charges read against him and Singh.
“I have no fear whatsoever about the discharge of my duties being subject to utmost scrutiny. I have absolutely no reservation about that and I have absolutely no fear about it,” Singh interjected.
PPP protesters outside of the magistrate’s court.Clad in a black suit, Singh led the almost nine-minute engagement with the media as he defended himself while positing that he and Brassington were being targeted politically.
Saying he took his responsibilities seriously and discharged them “diligently and within the law at all times, consistent with and in pursuit of national interest”, Singh also spoke for his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) noting that the party is also confident in its past actions.
“We as a government, the PPP has no problem with their period in office being under scrutiny,” he stressed.
Both men who reside abroad have been charged with three counts of misconduct in public office and made their first court appearance after arriving in the country earlier yesterday. (See other story on page 15.)
Singh said that the charges are preposterous.
“The three matters that are subjects of the current proceedings are not a sudden discovery, these transactions were publicly disclosed by a variety of means, which they were gazetted, published in an extremely comprehensive document produced by Brassington… As far as privatisation is concerned, it is without comparison and the level of transparency [also].
“They were publicly disclosed by our government, as indeed were all our other privatisation transactions. We will always defend them, we meaning the PPP,” he added.
Pointing to a recent letter that Brassington sent to this newspaper following an article on one of the transactions, Singh said that Brassington has defended his actions even as he outlined the holistic developmental impacts of them.
Singh said that there was no truth to allegations of wrongdoings and the charges are illusions created by the current government to tarnish his and Brassington’s name.
“Mr. Brassington has already written a letter setting out in great detail the positive development impact …it outlined in a very succinct way the phenomenal development impact of transactions such as these,” he said.
“What we are witnessing is rule by innuendo, insinuation, fear and intimidation. All
manner of innuendos have been uttered and repeated… the innuendo keeps being repeated … If you read the substance of these charges there is absolutely no merit in them. The Guyanese people are far too sophisticated in this modern day and age to be deceived in that manner. I have that confidence. I have no fear, I will go further and say, once these matters are heard they will be disposed of in the manner in which they deserve,” he added. He said that government officials now also have to worry about their actions in office.
“There is a more worrying development, if transactions as this is being described as misconduct in public office…then I shudder to think the number of misconduct in public office that is being carried out right now,” Singh said.
Further, he added, “They must know something that must assure them that they will never have to answer the call. They clearly must know something. They are setting a bar as it related to conduct in public office which they themselves are completely, wholly incapable of complying with and adhering to. You need to ask yourselves, what is the assumption that they are making relating to their own tenure in office? Because anybody that behaves like this clearly believes they will never have to answer to the people of Guyana. It is only the PPP that will have to answer to the people of Guyana? I will say this to them, those days are long gone.”
At the court former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds also had warnings for current public officials while former President Donald Ramotar added that he too believes that the charges are politically motivated to embarrass the PPP and break and humiliate its officials and supporters.
“I feel NICIL is doing now more riskier, haphazard things than what was done in our time. In terms of them reopening an estate with the excuse (that) it is to provide molasses. You have a two-product situation. The two products, sugar and molasses and only one was considered. To open up an estate to provide the byproduct, in terms of business and many sorts of things like that, is extremely hazardous. The issue of valuation and all of that…Maurice Odle, Horace James and Mr. (Colvin) Heath-London should look at this and think if they do fall out with this government what could be their fate. They should think about that fate because they are being asked to do much more controversial things than were done by NICIL in our time,” Hinds, who served as Prime Minister from 1992 to 2015, told Stabroek News.
While not confirming, Attorney Anil Nandall signalled that there will be civil proceedings against the state for character assassination. “They will pay millions of dollars in reputational damage because what is happening here is people’s reputations are being damaged beyond redemption and someone will have to pay for that at some point and time. The prosecution said they have several charges more to institute, so I can only go by that being an indication that there are more charges to be instituted,” he said.
“We are witnessing another state of politically inspired and politically dictated charges. The offence for which these accused persons have been charged, this is the first time they have been instituted against anyone. They have not even served the summons on the defendants but Singh and Brassington attended court voluntarily and the magistrate granted bail. Having made the decision to grant bail that means the accused persons are going to be present when their trials are fixed”, he said.